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The Cloister Gallery of the Toledo Museum of Art 








The Cloister Gallery of the Toledo Museum of Art 

Richard H. Putney 

This book was published with the assistance of 
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 


© 2002 Toledo Museum of Art 

Printed in the United States of America. All rights 
reserved under International and Pan-American 
Copyright Conventions. 

ISBN 0-935172-19-X 

Except for legitimate excerpts customary in review or 
scholarly publications, no part of this book may be 
reproduced by any means without the express written 
permission of the publisher. 

The works of art illustrated are in the collection of the 
Toledo Museum of Art unless otherwise specified. Black- 
and-white photographs and color transparencies, slides, 
and digitized images are available for rental or purchase. 

Toledo Museum of Art 

2445 Monroe Street 

P.O.Box 1013 

Toledo, Ohio 43697-1013 

Telephone 419-255-8000 

Fax 419-255-5638 


Consulting Curator of Medieval Art: Richard H. Putney 
Coordinator of Publications: Sandra E. Knudsen 
Designer: Rochelle R. Slosser Smith 
Drawings (pages 20 and 43): Chris Olwick-East 
Map (page 14): Timothy A. Motz 
Composition: Omnia heads and Thesis text 
Printer: University Lithoprinters, Ann Arbor, Mich. 


Author: Figs. 7, 8, 11, 13, 22, 37 

Dirk Bakker, Detroit: Figs. 16 and title page detail 

Toni Gonzalez: Figs. 5, 14-15, 17-18, 21, 30, 32-33, 39-41, 50 

Image Source, Toledo: figs. 10, 43, 47 

Clarence Kennedy: Figs. 2-4, chapter heads 

Photo Inc., Toledo: Figs. 1, 29 

Tim Thayer, Oak Park, Mich.: Figs. 34, 42 

Robert Wetzler, Cleveland: Figs. 6, 48 

Cover: Cloister Gallery, (c) 1992 Balthazar Korab. 
Title page: Detail, Polyptych; see fig. 16. 
Chapter heads: The illustrations are Clarence Kennedy 
photographs of column capitals and of the sides of the 
i3 th -century wellhead from northern Italy (possibly 
Venice; ace. 1936.19) in the center of the Cloister Gallery. 

Notes to the Reader: 

1. Quotations from the Bible are taken from the Douay- 
Confraternity version. It is the English rendition of the 
Vulgate, the Latin Bible of the Middle Ages. 

2. Christian beliefs, ritual, and stories are described in the 
historical context of medieval culture, deliberately 
avoiding modern critical commentary. 


Acknowledgments 4 

Preface 5 

I. The Cloister Gallery and the Middle Ages 7 

• The Arcades 7 

• The Middle Ages 9 

II. Medieval Art: Its Characteristics and Origins 13 

III. The Cloister Gallery and Medieval Style: 
Romanesque and Gothic 17 

• The Historical Context of the Romanesque 

and Gothic 17 

• Architecture: "The Mother of the Arts" 18 

• Architectural Sculpture 22 

• Painting 22 

• Ars Sacra-. Sacred Art of Small Scale 24 

IV. Medieval People: The Living Presence of the Dead 29 

• The Significance of Death and The Hope 

for Redemption 30 

• Final Things: The Last Judgment 31 

• Saints and Martyrs: The Very Special Dead 33 

• Relics and Reliquaries 35 

V Medieval People: The Living 37 

• Those Who Pray: People of the Church 37 

• Those Who Fight: The Warrior Aristocracy 45 

• Those Who Work: Peasants, Burghers, and Artists 50 

VI. A Story for the Ages: The Martyrdom of Becket 59 

Further Reading 61 

Sculpted Capitals in the Cloister Gallery 62 

Notes 64 


I am deeply grateful to the many 

people who made this publication 

possible. I thank those members of 

the Museum staff who responded 

so positively to my proposal to 

write about the Cloister Gallery, 

with special thanks to Roger M. 

Berkowitz. His support made this 

book possible and sustained me on 

many levels throughout its 

writing. Patricia J. Whitesides and 

Nicole Rivette cheerfully opened documentary files over 

many months. Julie Mellby and Tom Loeffler were generous 

with their time and knowledge in working with me on the 

Museum's collection of medieval leaves and manuscripts, 

while Silagh White addressed my ignorance of musical 

manuscripts. Kathleen Gee and the staff of the Visual 

Resources Collection were very helpful with the 

organization of illustrative material. 

I also give special thanks to three individuals who were true 
midwives to this project. Rochelle Slosser Smith, a most 
talented designer, transformed text and image into the 
book you hold in your hands. Toni Gonzalez, the Museum's 
photographer, was the right person at the right time. My 
editor, Sandra E. Knudsen, was extraordinarily energetic, 
helping to develop the book's central concepts, envisioning 
its appearance, and honing its content and style. 

This book also owes much to the alliance of the Museum and 
the University of Toledo. I thank Joan Mullin, Debra Stoudt, 
Linda Rouillard, and fellows of the Humanities Seminar for 
their support. Mere words cannot express my gratitude to one 

of the University's treasures, Roger Ray, 
for his years of friendship and 
collegiality. We have taught many 
courses over the past two decades, with 
Roger forming the better half of a team 
devoted to the art and history of the 
Middle Ages. Particularly useful to this 
project were his contributions to our 
seminar, Interpreting the Museum 
Cloister, most recently in spring 2001. We 
worked with a wonderful group 
of students, including Chuck Burton, Donna Buza, 
Rebeka Ceravolo, Pete Cross, Cherie Elizondo, Cary Ann Geggus, 
Kevin Hatch, Haneen Boraby Matt, Teresa K. Nevins, 
Andrew Newby, Mary Rankin, Christopher Reed, Laurel Reed, 
Paula Reich, Meleah Stout, Rachel Tomasewski, Terry Wolfe, 
Jaclyn Wroblewski, Shelley Wroblewski, Beth Wumer, 
and Kendra Wumer. 

I also thank Allan B. Kirsner, whose friendship, knowledge, 
and advice were essential to developing the text. 

Finally, I dedicate this book to my family, both immediate and 
extended, with special attention to two extraordinary people. 
First is Carolyn M. Putney, the Museum's Associate Curator of 
Asian Art; she is also my wife, best friend, talented colleague, 
and muse. The love of my life, she provided equal portions of 
inspiration, support, and helpful criticism. Second is Carolyn's 
mother and my friend, Marcia Papsidera. To her I offer the book 
as the only possible answer to her persistent question: "When 
will it be done?" 

Richard H. Putney, October 2002 


Since its installation in 1932, the Cloister 

Gallery has been the setting of group 

tours, University and Museum classes, 

weddings, social gatherings, and, of 

course, visits by thousands of families 

and individuals. Its popularity is due in 

large part to the exhibition of 

distinguished objects, most of them 

originating in western Europe during 

the later Middle Ages. The gallery's 

most striking feature, however, is an 

installation of medieval architectural components, shared 

with but a handful of American museums, notably The 

Cloisters of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The 

Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Nelson-Atkins Museum 

of Art, Kansas City; and The Worcester Art Museum in 


In spite of its unique combination of medieval art and 
architecture, the Cloister Gallery has rarely been published. 
The most recent study was Ricki D. Weinberger's "The 
Cloister," published in the Toledo Museum of Art Museum 
News in 1979. As it has long been out of print and explored 
only the the arcade capitals, there has been a real need for 
a new, more comprehensive work. 

This book, written by Richard H. Putney, takes a new 
approach. While it covers essential aspects of style, 
chronology, and historical setting, its central focus is on the 
relationship of various medieval works in the collection to 
the people — including churchmen, monks, noblemen, 

peasants, and artists — who made up 
medieval society. The book thus 
tells a great deal about those who 
commissioned works of art, the artists 
who made them, and the people depicted 
in them. This approach gives insights 
into human values in a particular 
historical setting and permits a richer 
understanding of these works of art. 

In large part, this book is the product of 
the Museum's long relationship with the 
University of Toledo, whose art program has been located 
on the Museum campus since 1921. Dr. Putney has been an 
outstanding member of the University/Museum 
community since 1979, teaching many courses on medieval 
art, often with his fellow medievalist Roger Ray, director of 
the University's Humanities Institute. 

Another collaborator in the production of this book is 
Clarence Kennedy (1892-1972), a renowned photographer 
who spent several years at the Museum studying and 
photographing its collections. His time in Toledo 
fortunately corresponded with the acquisition of the 
medieval arcades, which he photographed before and after 
their installation. Many of his excellent black-and-white 
photographs are printed in this book, which therefore 
celebrates not only the art of the Middle Ages but also the 
photography of the early twentieth century. We continue 
to be indebted to such artists, scholars, and curators. 

Roger M. Berkowitz, Director 

Fig. 1. Installed in 1932, the Cloister Gallery testifies to ardent American interest in 
medieval art during the late 19"' and early 20* centuries. The limestone and marble 
columns, plinths, and arches are sections of arcades from three long-demolished or 
abandoned buildings in southern France that date between about 1150 and 1400. 

Tloe cLoiSTeR qaLLgry awD rY>e cmOOLe aqgs 

The Cloister Gallery, designed in 

the 1920s, enchants visitors to the 

Toledo Museum of Art (fig. 1). For 

many, its spatial effects, subtle 

lighting, and precious works of art 

evoke the spirit of the Middle Ages. 

Central to the gallery's aura of serene 

spirituality are the architectural 

elements drawn from the medieval 

world. Rows of arches — called 

arcades — form the sides of the 

square court, which focuses on a 

marble wellhead. Each arcade is 

covered with a sloping tile roof 

supported by a rugged timber frame. 

Although the gallery is one of the 

few in the Museum with no natural 

light, its open court, rustic floor, 

arcades, tiled roofs, and curved 

ceiling combine to suggest the 

outdoors. Through a trick of lighting, the ceiling 

emphasizes this effect; with the gallery darkened, it can be 

lit to imitate a sweeping twilight sky of deep, glowing blue. 

The designers of the gallery arranged it to resemble the 
central courtyard of a medieval monastery, a type of 
spiritual community in which monks or nuns withdrew 
from the world to seek eternal salvation. In their lives of 
prayer, contemplation, work, and learning, such a 
courtyard — called a cloister (pronounced CLOY-stir) — was 
the symbolic center of their lives. Given the gallery's 

Since things (in principle) survive us, 
they know more about us than we 
about them. They carry within 
themselves the experiences they have 
had with us, and really are the book 
of history opened in front of us. 
—W. G. Sebald 

powerful association with 
medieval spirituality, one can 
easily imagine monks or nuns 
pursuing their daily rounds. 

Tl^e arcaC>6s 

Essential to the gallery's evocative 
atmosphere are its arcades. Three 
are medieval, their weathered 
stones acquired in France 
between 1929 and 1934. The 
fourth, built by Toledo craftsmen 
to complete the ensemble, is of 
wood. (For a diagram of the 
arcades and capitals, see pages 
62-63.) Closest to the gallery 
entrance — on its north side — 
is a row of seven arches 
from N6tre-Dame-de-Pontaut 
(pronounced Pohn-TOE), a 
monastery in the southwest corner of France. Dating to 
about 1400 and executed in a style known as the Gothic, 
its pointed arches are supported by paired columns topped 
by carved capitals (fig. 2). 

On the west side of the gallery — that is, on the right when 
seen from the gallery entrance — is a robustly proportioned 
arcade of six round-headed arches composed of alternating 
stones in gray and white (fig. 3). They are supported by thick 
columns whose large, richly carved capitals depict fantastic 
animals and plants. The original location of this arcade, 

Fig. 2a. Capital with the Romance of Barlaam and Josephat, 1931! 

Fig. 2. Arcade from the Cistercian abbey of N6tre-Dame-de-Pontaut in Gascony, 
built in the late i4 ,h or early i5 ,h century. Purchased with funds from the Libbey 
Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey. 1931.81-88. 

executed in a stylistic era called the Romanesque, is 
uncertain. However, its proportions and sculptural style 
show a very close relationship to arcades from the 
monastery of St.-Michel-de-Cuxa (pronounced KOO-shah), 
providing strong evidence of its origin in southern France 
about 1150. 

The third medieval arcade, the one furthest from the 
entrance, is located on the south side of the gallery. From 
the monastery of St.-Pons-de-Thomieres (pronounced 
tome-YEHR), it also has semicircular arches, is Romanesque 
in style, and was also built about 1150 (fig. 4). Its paired spiral 

columns carry capitals carved with biblical scenes and 
episodes from the life of St. Pons, the monastery's patron 
saint (see pages 33-34). 

The gallery and its lighting work well for the display of 
medieval objects. As in a Gothic cathedral, the dimly lit 
walkways are punctuated by bright accents of color. 
Spotlights play on shimmering objects of rock crystal, 
enamel, or gold, while colored glass, lit from behind, glows 
with radiant luminosity. Through its architecture, 
materials, and play of light and shadow, the Cloister invites 
the serene contemplation of works from an era far removed 
from our own. 

Fig. 3a. Capital with winged lions, 1934.93C. 

Fig. 3. Arcade from an unknown building in the style associated with the Benedictine 
abbey of St.-Michel-de-Cuxa in the Rousillon regiion, about 1150. Purchased with 
funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 193493A-E. 

Tlye cmOOLe XQes 

The Cloister Gallery and its art represent one of the most 
intriguing periods in European history. The medieval era 
had its origins in the chaotic collapse of the western Roman 
Empire during the fifth century A.D. Lasting about a 
thousand years, the period ended with the Renaissance of 
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Although the era's 
time span is relatively clear, preconceptions about it have 
often obscured both its diversity and its accomplishments. 
For one, it was not an age of unchanging, homogeneous 
unity. Europe changed dramatically during the Middle Ages 
and developed societies with diverse cultural points of view, 

facts well supported by the variety of objects in the Cloister 
Gallery. And while most medieval people were religious — 
and some supremely spiritual — the frequent 
characterization of the Middle Ages as a Christian "Age of 
Faith" blurs our understanding of the period. Indeed, the 
eras that preceded and followed the Middle Ages were just 
as concerned with religion. Christianity was certainly 
important to medieval society and culture; but Catholic 
Christianity in western Europe differed remarkably from 
Byzantine Orthodox Christianity in the eastern 
Mediterranean, and Europe was also deeply affected by 
Judaism, Islam, early forms of Protestantism, and the rise 

Fig. 4. Arcade from the Benedictine abbey of St.-Pons-de-Thomieres near Beziers. Two 
of the capitals date about 1150; the other four were made about 1220. Purchased with 
funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1929.203-208. 

of a secular outlook. Finally, the very use of the term 
medieval — from the Latin medium aevum{" 'middle age") — 
has a negative connotation. Renaissance scholars coined it 
to characterize what they perceived as the barbaric period 
that separated the glories of their own era from those of 
ancient Rome. Even today the word can be used to connote 
something primitive or superstitious. Unlike their 
Renaissance predecessors, however, modern scholars now 
recognize both the strong continuity between the world of 
the Roman Empire and that of the early Middle Ages. Many 
of the achievements ascribed to the Renaissance are, in fact, 
rooted in late medieval culture. 

Fig. 4a. The Martyrdom of St. Pons, 1929.207. 

Fig. 4b. Aaron shows his flowering staff, 1929.204. 


Granted, the medieval world was less sophisticated than 
the contemporary world in many ways. However, in 
rebuilding Europe from the ashes of the Roman Empire, 
medieval people were profoundly accomplished, not least 
in terms of artistic and architectural production. 
Throughout the Middle Ages, artists and builders created 
a prodigious quantity of works like those on display in the 
Cloister, much comparing favorably with works of any age. 

In the pages that follow we will explore important aspects 
of the art and architecture of the Cloister Gallery We will 
begin by examining a thirteenth-century Book Cover for 

insights into the essential nature of medieval art and its 
origins. Then we'll explore art and architecture in the 
Romanesque and Gothic eras, the two stylistic periods that 
are best represented in the Cloister Gallery. Finally we'll 
investigate the types of people who made up medieval 
society and see how their beliefs and aspirations were 
essential to artistic production in the Middle Ages. 


Medieval churchmen commissioned elaborate works of 
art to dignify and embellish Christian rituals, which are 
collectively referred to as the liturgy. Central to public 
worship was the mass, a service making use of incense, 
music, prayer, processions, colorful garments, the reading 
of sacred texts, and sumptuous objects. Designed to nourish 
the soul, its drama and spectacle could also dazzle the 
senses. The climax of the mass was the Eucharist: at the 
altar, a priest consecrated bread and wine that were 
transformed into Christ's body and blood, a miraculous 
re-enactment of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. 

The cup illustrated at right is called a chalice. Its opulence 
is typical of metalwork used for the Eucharistic wine. 
(Similarly, sumptuous plates called patens were used to 
hold the Eucharistic bread.) Crafted of gilded silver in a 
Gothic style, this chalice was made by an unknown artist 
on the island of Sardinia around 1400. 

The chalice was made in 

several parts: an elaborate 

foot, a hexagonal stem 

embellished with a grip 

(composed of six projecting 

knobs), and the cup itself. 

Much of its surface is 

engraved with leaves of a 

Mediterranean plant called 

acanthus, and enamel 

plaques adorn its foot and 

knop. At the center of the 

base is a plaque depicting 

the Crucifixion. Surrounding Christ are numerous 

implements, including a ladder, spear, sponge, whip, 

hammer, and nails--gruesome reminders of Christ's 

suffering in his flagellation and crucifixion. 

Fig. 5. Chalice, about 1400, Sardinia 
(Alghero). Gilded silver with enamels, 
H 35.5 cm (14 in.). Purchased with 
funds from the Libbey Endowment, 
Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 

I I 

Fig. 6. Book Cover with the 
Crucifixion, early 13 th century, 
France (Limoges). Champleve 
enamel on gilded copper, mounted 
on wood. H 32.3 cm (12 "At in.). 
Purchased with funds from the 
Libbey Endowment. Gift of Edward 
Drummond Libbey, 1950.254. 



cneCnevAL art; its c^aractcristics amO oriqikis 

The vast majority of the works in 

Toledo's Cloister Gallery originated 

in western Europe during the latter 

half of the Middle Ages — from 

roughly the years 1000 to 1500 — 

when artistic and architectural 

production were most extensive. 

Although the works on display are 

nearly as diverse in style and 

function as medieval society itself, 

they share a number of important 

characteristics. A fine example is a 

French Book Cover, made in the early 1200s, which embodies 

essential aspects of medieval art and reflects the historic 

circumstances in which it came into being (fig. 6; for the 

technique, see page 56). 

First, the work is Christian in its subject matter and 
function. This fine example of metalwork originally 
embellished and protected a manuscript, a Gospel Book or 
other sacred text. Appropriately, it depicts an episode from 
the crucifixion of Christ as described in John 19:25-30 (see 
sidebar page 15). Christ has just died on the cross, his 
passing mourned by the Apostle John to his left and his 
mother Mary to his right. What makes the work's spiritual 
imagery typical of later medieval art is that its sacred 
character is combined with three other qualities: a rejection 
of naturalism, the use of decorative color and form, and an 
interest in narrative relying upon the human figure. 

The Book Cover is not realistic in its depiction of the human 
figure, use of space, or color. The representations of Mary 

and John, for example, are unusually 
elongated and flat. Their feet seem to 
dangle weightlessly over the earth, 
rather than being supported by it. 
The "hills" beneath them clearly 
suggest rolling terrain, but are 
exaggerated and abstracted in their 
simple, repetitive shapes. Like the 
figures, the hills are flat; using no 
shading, they look as if they had 
been cut from paper and glued to the 
surface in thin, overlapping layers. 
The lack of realism is neither arbitrary nor a result of lack 
of skill. With few exceptions, artists and patrons were not 
interested in art that merely imitated what the eye saw in 
the natural world. Instead, they favored visionary imagery 
that expressed what the spirit felt and the mind believed. 
Religious art of the Middle Ages often represents a separate 
and symbolic world, one in which eternal truths are 
conveyed in a lyrical and expressive manner. 

The Book Cover is also richly decorative. Denying the 
appearance of the real world, it displays bright color, has 
polished surfaces, shows a dynamic use of line, and relies 
upon ornamental effects. The depiction of the Crucifixion, 
for example, exploits the rich play of gold against green and 
blue, with accents in red. The figures, plated with gold 
through a process called gilding, read as strongly outlined 
shapes against the enamel background, with details of 
drapery and hands engraved into the surface. Particularly 
noteworthy are the elegant linearity of Christ's torso and 


Europe about 1200. 

the outlined shapes of angels hovering above the cross. 
Surrounding the scene are rows of repetitive floral motifs 
that form an ornamental frame. 

The content and appearance of the Book Cover are the result 
of conscious stylistic choices and reflect the origins of 
medieval civilization and its art in the transformation of 
the late Roman Empire, when artists and patrons relaxed 
their traditional interest in realism. At the same time 
Christianity developed from an obscure, sometimes 
persecuted, cult into the state religion. Among the Church's 
early accomplishments were the development of 
administrative structures, religious doctrine, the institution 
of monasticism, and monumental church architecture. 

Equally important, it fostered a new type of imagery, the 
last great creation of Roman art. Early Christian art 
generally depicted sacred persons, biblical stories, or images 
of divine authority. Relying upon the stylized human figure, 
it became one of the fundamental sources of medieval art. 

Another decisive factor in the development of medieval art 
was the migration of Germanic peoples — the so-called 
"barbarian invasions" — into the Roman Empire. Beginning 
in the 300s, groups such as the Goths, Franks, and Anglo- 
Saxons entered the Empire, took control of its western 
provinces, and established a cluster of kingdoms that were 
the first states of medieval Europe. Most of the newcomers 
were illiterate and pagan, their art consisting largely of 


portable metalwork intended for a warrior aristocracy. Their 
art rarely made use of the human figure or narrative and 
had no use for realism or monumental scale. Featuring 
highly stylized and two-dimensional motifs — primarily 
animals and geometric patterns — it boldly exploited metals 
and gemstones in an art that relied upon the abstract effects 
of line, pattern, and decorative color. 

A third factor contributing to the creation of medieval art 
was the conversion of the Germanic newcomers — as well 
as of the Celtic peoples of Ireland and Scotland — from 
paganism to Christianity. The process began during the 
400s, and, depending upon location and circumstance, was 
essentially complete by the year 1000. Once Christian, some 
members of these "barbarian" societies became literate and 
called for the production of books needed to sustain 
Christian worship and education. Some also commissioned 
the building and decoration of churches and the production 
of works of art with Christian content. Germanic and Celtic 
artists emulated the Christian art of the late Roman Empire, 
combining its stylization, symbolism, and narrative content 
with traditional interests in abstract pattern, line, and 
expressive color. Artists of early medieval Europe produced 
a body of works that reflected the synthesis of Roman, 
Christian, and "barbarian" traditions, with particular success 
in the Frankish and Anglo-Saxon kingdoms during the 700s 
and 800s (see fig. 47). 

Unfortunately, devastating raids by Vikings and other 
peoples disrupted early medieval society and, by the late 
800s, Europe entered a period of economic, political, and 
artistic decline. About a century later, however, in the years 
immediately preceding the year 1000, medieval Europe 
entered a stunning period of economic expansion that 
fostered extraordinary cultural accomplishments. During 
two great stylistic eras that followed — called the 
Romanesque and the Gothic — artists and builders produced 
remarkable works, including Toledo's Book Cover, the stone 
arcades, and most objects on display in the Cloister Gallery. 


Biblical imagery is typical of medieval Christian art, 
but artists often interpreted biblical texts rather than 
illustrated them in a literal fashion. The Book Cover's 
depiction of the Crucifixion provides an excellent 
example. Following a venerable pictorial tradition, 
it shows the crucified Christ flanked by his mother 
Mary and St. John. But what was the source of this 
image? The Crucifixion is an important episode in 
all four of the New Testament Gospel narratives, 
written by Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 
However, Mary alone is named in the accounts of 
Matthew and Mark, and neither Mary nor John is 
mentioned in Luke's. Only John 19:25-30 mentions 
both, and somewhat obliquely: 

Now there was standing by the cross of Jesus his mother and 
his mother's sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdaiene. 
When Jesus, therefore, saw his mother and the disciple standing 
by, whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, thy 
son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, thy mother." 
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home 

In medieval interpretation, the Bible's mention of a 
disciple "whom [Christ] loved" was a reference to John, 
the Gospel author. This understanding of the text is 
made clear in the Book Cover's image of the disciple, 
who holds a book. Although John could only have 
written his Gospel after Christ's death, burial, and 
resurrection (all of which are described in his Gospel 
narrative), the book's depiction makes clear that the 
figure on Christ's left is St. John, the beloved disciple, 
who was an eyewitness to this event. 



[On] the threshold of the [year woo] . . . it befell almost throughout 
the whole world, but especially in Italy and Gaul, that the fabrics of 
churches were rebuilt . ... So it was as though the very world had 
shaken herself and cast off her old age, and were clothing herself 
everywhere in a white garment of churches.' 

Thus wrote Raoul Glaber, a monk living in Burgundy during 
the early eleventh century. Having witnessed the great 
building boom of the early Romanesque era, he wrote 
grandly of the reinvigoration of medieval society and its 
culture. The expansion of the western economy in the 
decades bracketing the year 1000 fostered the building of 
many new churches and monasteries, first in northern Italy 
southern France, and northern Spain, and then spreading 
to the rest of Europe. 

A fine example of early Romanesque architecture is 
the monastery of St.-Martin-du-Canigou (pronounced 
KAHN-ih-goo), founded by Guifred, Count of Cerdagne, in 
the first decade of the eleventh century. For security and 
isolation, the monastery was dramatically sited on a spur 
of Mount Canigou, one of the tallest mountains in the 
eastern Pyrenees. Builders quarried the mountain itself, 
thus leveling a plateau large enough for the monastic 
complex, while also providing a good supply of building 
stone. In his later years, Count Guifred withdrew from the 
warrior aristocracy to this remote and inspiring place, 
where he lived the quiet, contemplative life of a monk. 
At death, he was buried in a tomb he himself had hewn 
from the living rock of Canigou. 

Intimate in scale, the monastery has many features we 
associate with later Romanesque monastic architecture. 
The church building, for example, has the thick walls, robust 
proportions, and simple geometric forms typical of the 
boldly formed Romanesque buildings of the later eleventh 

Fig. 7. The Monastery of St.-Martin-du-Canigou, early 11" 1 century. 

and twelfth centuries. Constructed entirely of stone, its 
interior spaces are covered with vaulting, a type of masonry 
ceiling using the technology of the arch. The monastic 
complex also includes a bell tower, anticipating the vertical 
accents of later churches, and a cloister surrounded by 
arcades and walkways. 


TT?e cLoisxeR qaLLgry amD coeCuevAL sryl-e; 


Close your eyes and imagine that you 
are traveling through a medieval 
landscape. If you see castles, vast acres 
of farmland, enormous monasteries, 
bustling towns, and lofty cathedrals, 
your imagination has taken you to the 
latter half of the Middle Ages. This was 
the era when the Book Cover and most 
other works in the Cloister Gallery were 
made. Historians assign the art and 
architecture of the later Middle Ages to 
two major stylistic eras. First came the 
Romanesque, a term coined in the 1800s that recognized 
the era's imitation of ancient Roman architectural forms. 
The Romanesque was an innovative era whose beginning 
around 1000 coincided with a major resurgence of western 
civilization. Extending a generation or so beyond 1200, the 
Romanesque saw the reinvigoration of European art and 
architecture. In the 1130s Parisian craftsmen laid the 
groundwork for a new style — the Gothic — that would 
produce the final glories of medieval art and architecture. 
Renaissance scholars derived its name — a scornful 
reference to the culture of the later Middle Ages — from one 
of the barbarian groups that had brought down the Roman 
Empire. Today, the era has a far more positive connotation. 
Beginning as an imaginative style for church architecture, 
by the early 1200s the Gothic also embraced distinctive 
styles in sculpture and painting. Evolving steadily, it 
dominated northern Europe well into the 1500s. 

Tloe Historical 
coNTexT op xl}e 


Before examining basic aspects of 
these important stylistic eras, it is 
important to note that the 
achievements of Romanesque and 
Gothic artists and builders did not 
stand in isolation but rather mirrored 
extraordinary and quite varied 
advances in medieval society. From 
the late 900s through the 1300s, for example, 
Europe experienced extraordinary economic growth 
ranging from agriculture through commercial trade. The 
number and size of towns grew rapidly, their streets, 
markets, and shops teeming with members of an 
expanding middle class, many of them artists and 
craftsmen. Portions of Europe also saw the gradual 
expansion of royal power, a burgeoning sense of 
nationalism, and an innovative emphasis on the 
mechanisms of government. Simultaneously, Europe 
expanded its international reach. Commercial shipping 
connected western Christendom, the Byzantine Empire, 
and the world of Islam. Travelers, including religious 
pilgrims, moved in great numbers from region to region, 
and Crusaders attempted — often successfully — to expand 
the bounds of Christendom in both the Holy Land and Spain 
(see map page 14). 


Fig. 8. Interior of the Romanesque church of St.-Philibert, Tournus 
(Burgundy), early 11 th century. The ceiling is a stone vault, and the 
walls and ceiling would have been decorated with paintings. 

The world that produced Romanesque and Gothic art was 
also characterized by increasing cultural accomplishment 
and a growing sense of the individual. Whether in 
monasteries, cathedral schools, or the newly founded 
universities, learning attained new standards of quality. 
New forms of literature appeared that expanded both 
religious and secular reflection. They included works 
celebrating romance, the deeds of warriors and courtliness, 
and culminated in such masterworks as Dante's Divine 
Comedy and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. While the era 
showed a growing concern with secular values, it was also 
characterized by an expansion of personal religious 
devotion that took increasingly sophisticated forms. 

Fig. 9. Master of the Last Judgment. Sts. James and Philip, fragment of mural 
painting, about 1125, Spain (Catalonia). Fresco, H 140.4 cm (55 '/„ in.). Museum 
Purchase, 1956.16. 

Changes in the later medieval world touched every aspect 
of life, including art, a circumstance that helps in 
understanding the works on view in the Cloister Gallery. 


"Tfte cr>OTl}eR op x£>e arts" 

Throughout the later Middle Ages, architecture was truly 
the "mother of the arts." Buildings reflected the developing 
prosperity and cultural ambition of both the Romanesque 
and Gothic eras, and literally teemed with paintings and 
sculptures that enhanced their meaning. Among the first 
hints of a new, more dynamic Europe was the building 


Fig. 10. Saint, 14 th century, possibly France. Stained glass, H 203 cm (80 in.). Purchased 
with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1945.22. 

boom that began around the year 1000. At the time, a few 
writers commented upon the increased pace of building 
activity (see sidebar page 16), but they could have hardly 
imagined what was to come. The buildings themselves, 
including the arcades in the Cloister Gallery, speak 
eloquently of the energy and creativity of medieval society. 
In secular architecture, builders developed the monumental 
castle in stone and ecclesiastical buildings in a wide variety 
of regional styles. Many churches were of large scale and 
featured stone construction, the use of the arch, an 
increased interest in decoration and sculpture, and diverse 
plans that served complex religious functions. The dramatic 
interiors of many churches were covered with vaults, 

Fig. 11. Interior of the Gothic church of St. Ouen, I4 ,h century, Rouen 
(Normandy). Its thm vaulted ceiling is supported by a skeletal structure 
whose walls have been eliminated for stained glass windows 

arched ceilings constructed of cut stone or rubble that had 
not been used on a large scale in western Europe since the 
Roman Empire. 

Essential to the spiritual and intellectual life of medieval 
Europe were monasteries, whose purpose is further 
discussed in Chapter V (pages 40-44). The architectural 
setting of most monastic complexes focused upon a cloister, 
the courtyard formed by arcades that was the center of 
daily life. Two of the Cloister Gallery's arcades, dating about 
1150, feature the technology, essential stylistic features, and 
variety of Romanesque architecture. One arcade is from an 
uncertain site, possibly the monastic priory of Espira d'Agly 


Figs. I2a-d. Steps in building a Romanesque arch. 

(pronounced ess-peer-AH dye-YEE) (fig. 3). Whatever its 
origins, its style shows that it is the work of a group of 
sculptors who also executed the great monastic cloister at 
St.-Michel-de-Cuxa (see sidebar page 23). The other arcade 
is from St.-Pons-de-Thomieres, a monastery near Cuxa in 
the south of France (fig. 4). Typical of the Romanesque, both 
arcades depend upon the technology of the arch, a building 
form essential to the architecture of the Middle Ages. More 
specifically, both feature round-headed arches, the type 
employed in ancient Roman architecture and most 
frequently used by Romanesque builders. Finally, both 
arcades use sculpted capitals and blocks of stone cut to 

shape on all sides, an advance over the work of the early 
Middle Ages. 

The two arcades also have differences. The example in the 
Cuxa style features relatively thick columns, blocky marble 
capitals, and round-headed arches that are free of carved 
ornament. The arcade from St.-Pons-de-Thomieres uses 
double columns of more slender proportion, rectangular 
capitals, and arches crowned by carved ornament. While 
close in date, the arcades demonstrate that the term 
"Romanesque" refers not to a single, homogeneous style 
but to a family of styles with similar characteristics. 



The arcades displayed in the Cloister Gallery represent the 
essential accomplishments of medieval architects, who used 
stone as their primary building material. The physical 
characteristics of stone, quarried in many types and colors, 
presented both advantages and disadvantages to medieval 
builders. Potentially a beautiful material, in certain contexts 
stone can also be a very strong one. When individual pieces 
are piled one upon another, as in a wall, the pieces experience 
compression, a force that squeezes them together. A medieval 
builder knew through experience that, in compression, stone 
could endure high loads (in modern terms, as much as 3,000 
pounds per square inch). Thus, stone was an excellent material 
for foundations or for vertical supports such as walls, columns, 
or piers. This is made obvious by a glance at the Cuxa arcade 
(fig. 3), where a heavy wall and arches are easily supported on 
relatively thin marble columns, all of which are in 
compression. Without the benefit of modem physics, of course, 
medieval builders learned this through experience, whose 
"rules of thumb" were passed from generation to generation. 

Medieval builders also knew that, in some contexts, stone is 
very weak. In modem terms, we know that stone breaks easily 
when subjected to the force of tension, a stretching force that 
can pull stone apart. The maximum amount of tension that 
stone can sustain is only about 30 pounds per square inch, 
and careless or inexperienced builders can easily encounter 
it. Tension is a significant force in the lower portion of a 
horizontal beam, for example, which sags under its own 
weight and thus stretches the lower surface of the beam. 
Through experience, ancient and medieval masons knew that 
stone could be used for horizontal spans, but only relatively 
narrow ones where the force of tension is kept within the 
margins of safety. 

A central ambition of medieval builders was to cover 
enormous spans — the main space of a cathedral, for example, 
might be fifty feet wide and hundreds of feet long — and to do 

so with stone. The ingenious solution to this aesthetic and 
technical problem was the use of the arch. Composed of 
individual stones that arc up from one support and descend 
to another, the arch develops relatively little tension. Rather 
than stretching its stones, the arch acts to compress them. 
Again, the Cuxa arcade helps to see this : the substantial weight 
of the upper wall presses down upon the arch stones. They, in 
turn, channel the weight of the wall to the most desirable and 
strongest place: the tops of the columns. The result is an 
efficient and attractive structure that allows for relatively wide 
spans between the supports. Precisely the same principles, 
used on a larger scale, applied to the arched windows and 
vaulted ceilings of Romanesque and Gothic churches. 

In reviving the use of large-scale arches and vaults, used 
extensively by the ancient Romans, medieval builders also had 
to revive the technology of their construction. The ingenious 
techniques required in such a building system required 
expertise in geometric design and the teamwork of skilled 
carpenters and masons. In erecting an arch of the type used 
in the Cuxa arcade, the masons first erected two columns, each 
of whose cappitals supported the first stone of the arch (fig. 
12a). The next step, crucial to the erection of the arch itself, 
was to brace the columns in a vertical position and prepare 
them to receive the curving arch stones they were to carry 
(fig. 12b). The carpenters did this by bridging the column tops 
with a carefully shaped wooden cradle taking the shape of a 
semicircle. Called/ormworfe or centering, the cradle spanned 
the space between the columns and held them in position; its 
upper surface had the semicircular shape the arch was to 
assume. To build the arch itself, masons then laid the carefully 
shaped stones of the arch onto the cradle, mortaring each in 
place (fig. 12c). Once all the arch stones were set, the arch would 
support itself and the centering could be removed. The masons 
then completed the construction process by laying stones on 
top of the arch, their weight locking the structure securely in 
place (fig. i2d). 

Quite different in style from the Romanesque, Gothic 
architecture focused on lightness and technical efficiency. 
First appearing in Paris in the 1130s, its elegant combination 
of large windows, thin structures, light vaulting, and 
pointed arches led to its adoption in most of northern 
Europe by 1200 (fig. 11). A fine example is the stone arcade 
from the monastery of N6tre-Dame-de-Pontaut (fig. 2), 
created around 1400. Immediately obvious is the Gothic use 
of the pointed arch, a component derived from Islamic 
building practices. While it appeared sporadically during 
the Romanesque period, the pointed arch became a 
fundamental component of the Gothic style. Also 
noteworthy are the slim proportions of the double columns 
and capitals from Pontaut. This tendency toward thinner, 
more elegant building parts developed throughout the 
Gothic period, so that late medieval church architecture 
often has a lacy, even fragile appearance. 


Toledo's arcades also bear witness to one of the most 
important accomplishments of the later Middle Ages: the 
revival of architectural sculpture, largely absent from 
European art since the late Roman Empire. The capitals in 
many monastic cloisters were among the most important 
examples of this development. 

A comparison of the capitals from Toledo's "Cuxa" arcade 
with examples from St. -Pons shows the variety that 
characterized Romanesque sculpture. The Cuxa style 
features expressive, even fantastic, animals carved with 
robust proportions and rounded forms (fig. 3). Only two of 
the Museum's capitals from St.-Pons were completed in the 
1100s, but they show a completely different Romanesque 
style from the Cuxa arcade. Representing the martyrdom 
of St. Pons, to whom the monastery was dedicated, they 
feature unnaturalistic human figures with expressive 
proportions, extremely large heads, and very linear carving 
(fig. 4a). Such works were intended for a private monastic 

audience, but the Romanesque also developed works 
intended for far more accessible locations, such as the 
sculpted doorways and capitals of churches. 

Gothic buildings continued to feature large-scale 
assemblages of sculpture, which are represented in the 
Cloister Gallery by four capitals in the arcade from St.-Pons- 
de-Thomieres. While a group of sculptors working in a 
Romanesque style had begun the sculptural embellishment 
of the arcade about 1150, they never finished it. A new group, 
interested in the emerging Gothic style, came to the 
monastery in the early 1200s to complete the work. 
Influenced by the cathedral sculpture of northern France, 
their work shows a shift from a higher degree of naturalism, 
one that emphasizes slender proportions, softer carving, 
and greater refinement (fig. 4b). The Romanesque figures 
feature linear hair and hard, abstract garment folds; 
consisting of pairs of arcing double lines, they divide the 
drapery into what seem like overlapping metallic plates. 
The drapery of the Gothic figures hangs in more natural, 
vertical folds reminiscent of ancient Roman sculpture. 


The creation of the Gothic style of architecture, 
complemented by a change in sculptural style, also had a 
profound effect on the pictorial arts. Romanesque churches 
had significant expanses of wall and vault that were ideal 
for the display of fresco painting, works produced by 
painting on plaster applied to the wall (fig. 8). The Cloister 
Gallery contains such a work, a painting of Sts. James and 
Philip (fig. 9). It is a fragment of a much larger wall painting, 
dating to about 1125, from an unknown church in Catalonia, 
now part of northeastern Spain. The Catalan region is justly 
famous for its painted Romanesque churches, whose 
interior walls were covered throughout with sacred images. 
The name of the artist who executed the Toledo fresco is 
now lost, but scholars have designated him the "Master of 
the Last Judgment" after a fresco of that subject executed 


Fig. 13. The reconstructed cloister at St -Michel-de-Cuxa. 

by the same artist in another church in Catalonia. His 
artistic style is typical of the Romanesque, employing bold 
color, strong linear values, and relatively flat and highly 
stylized figures conveying a sense of spiritual intensity. 

Fresco painting continued to be used in the Gothic era, but 
the new approach to building in northern Europe called for 
tall, very thin structures designed to eliminate the wall and 
support row upon row of colored windows (fig. 11). As a 
result, the emerging medium of stained glass became the 
predominant feature of church interiors, relegating fresco 
to a secondary role. The Cloister Gallery glows with the 
colored light of several examples of stained glass, including 
images of a Saint and a Bishop that are probably fragments 
of a larger window (figs. 10 and 31). As in these examples, 
Gothic windows often contained figural imagery with 
elongated bodies in gracefully curved poses. Executed in 
colored glass, especially blue, red, green, yellow, white, or 
gray, such windows transformed the interior of a Gothic 
church into a heavenly apparition that transcended 
ordinary experience. In such spaces, which sometimes rose 
to heights well over a hundred feet, images of Christ and 
the saints hovered in the air, visions from another world. 
Emphasizing luminosity, color, and transcendent space, the 
Gothic church and its windows were the supreme visual 
expression of medieval spirituality. 



Located in the foothills of the northern Pyrenees 
mountains, Cuxa was one of the most important 
monasteries in the medieval region known as 
Catalonia. In the middle of the 1100s, the monastery 
built a new, Romanesque cloister whose arcades had 
sixty-four sculpted capitals. During the French 
Revolution, the government of France confiscated the 
monastery, expelled the monks, and sold off the 
monastic complex. It soon fell into ruins, and people 
made off with pieces of the church and cloister; thus, 
columns, sculpted capitals, and other architectural 
components were dispersed throughout the region. 
Many other monastic sites in France suffered a 
similar fate. 

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, revived 
interest in the culture of the Middle Ages inspired 
collectors and dealers to search for and purchase 
building stones and sculpted capitals taken from 
medieval sites. One individual who did so was the 
American sculptor George Gray Barnard (1863-1938), 
who acquired many medieval artifacts in France, 
including numerous stones and capitals from the 
Cuxa cloister. Exporting his purchases to the United 
States, in 1925 he sold them to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., 
who gave them to New York's Metropolitan Museum 
of Art. After careful planning, in 1938 the Metropolitan 
opened The Cloisters, a new museum in northern 
Manhattan devoted to medieval art and architecture. 
Its collection included architectural components from 
Cuxa — thirty-five sculpted capitals among them — 
which were re-erected as a small cloister. Meanwhile, 
in France, donors worked to re-acquire other capitals 
and stones from Cuxa. Returned to their original site 
and reconstructed, they can once again be seen in 
their original context (fig. 13). 


Fig 14. Processional Cross, about 1130, North Italy Gilded bronze, H 36 8 cm (14 '/, in.) 
Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond 
Libbey, 1949.16 

Fig. 15. Reliquary with St. Michael, about 1050. Byzantine. Gilded silver with enamel 
inlays, Diam. 6.2 cm (2 7 /, 6 in). Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, 
Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1953.49 


SACRCO art op sodaLL scaLc 

We may conclude this brief overview of artistic style in the 
later Middle Ages by comparing two of the Cloister Gallery's 
smaller objects, both of which had a religious purpose. The 
first is a twelfth-century crucifix of gilded bronze (fig. 14), a 
fine example of Romanesque ecclesiastical art. The second 
is a small shrine-like object carved of ivory, probably in Paris, 
during the late 1200s (fig. 16). Devoted to the Virgin Mary 
and the Christ Child, it is a Gothic polyptych (pronounced 
pol-LIP-tick), a term designating a work with multiple 
panels. Both works are excellent examples of their eras, and 
both demonstrate the international associations of later 
medieval art. 

The artist who fabricated the crucifix was Italian. His design 
has imagery on the front and back, typical of crosses used 
in church processions. Romanesque in style, the work is 
highly stylized, has strong linear values, and is dramatically 
expressive. In addition, it shows a strong relationship to the 
art of the Byzantine Empire. The artist who made the 
Processional Cross — like the one who made the Book 
Cover — represented Christ with a drooping head, a loincloth 
extending from the lower abdomen to the knees, and 
distinctive linear patterns emphasizing the pectoral 
muscles and abdomen. Seemingly trivial, these details 
occur regularly in the Byzantine art of the eastern 
Mediterranean. An incredibly prosperous state, Byzantium 
had an enormous influence on western Christendom and 
its art, particularly during the Romanesque era, when many 


Fig. 16. Polyptych: The Virgin and Christ Child, about 1280-90, France 
(Paris). Ivory with paint and gilding, H 29.4 cm (11 'A in.). Purchased 
with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond 
Libbey, 1950 304 


travelers, pilgrims, Crusaders, and merchants passed 
through its domains. Whether through trade, movement 
of artists, diplomatic exchange of works of art, copying of 
works (fig. 15), or the use of model books, Byzantine styles 
made their way to medieval Europe, there to influence the 
appearance of many works. 

Justly renowned for its great churches, the Gothic era also 
saw the production of far more intimate works of incredible 
quality. The Polyptych of the Virgin and Christ Child 
perfectly reflects the era's elegant sophistication and 
international scope. Less than a foot wide, the polyptych 
was carved out of ivory, probably in a Parisian workshop, 
during the late 1200s. The work was intended for private 
devotion, a topic to which we will return (page 54). 
Moveable wings flank its central shrine, whose structure 
mimics the slender forms of a Gothic cathedral. Traces of 
paint show that, like Gothic stained glass windows, the 
Polyptych would have been brightly colored. 

Carved in an exotic material that is perfectly suited for fine 
detail, the figures in the polyptych are both graceful and 
worldly, bridging the realms of body and soul. The central 
figure of Mary is delicately elongated, graceful and 
idealized, but her body responds to the world in a quite 
natural way. Unlike the Romanesque figures in the Book 
Cover (fig. 6), Mary assumes a stance in which one leg 
carries the weight of her body, while the other is relaxed. 

Fully human, her torso curves back gracefully to bear the 
weight of the infant Christ perched on her out -thrust hip. 
The stylish folds of her drapery accentuate the dynamic 
play of her stance and respond to the force of gravity. While 
the image accommodates sensual beauty and the natural 
world, its depiction of angels — one of whom reaches down 
from heaven to crown the Virgin Mary — assures us of its 
otherworldly spirituality. 

Like the Processional Cross, the Polyptych has international 
connections, but in this case they are economic. Like many 
objects of the later Middle Ages, the work is made of 
elephant ivory, whose use depended upon networks of long 
distance trade. Merchants brought the luxury material 
from southeast Asia and the eastern coast of Africa to such 
ports as Alexandria, where ships from Venice and Genoa 
carried it to Europe. Similarly, the Gothic era saw other 
artistic materials, such as silk, and even finished works such 
as ceramics, carpets, or glassware move from Asia, Africa, 
or Islamic Spain to Christian Europe. 

The works examined in this chapter are fine examples of 
Romanesque or Gothic styles. They show the essential 
development of later medieval art and architecture in the 
context of broad trends in medieval history. While style was 
important to the people who made buildings and works of 
art, as well as to those who used them, it was by no means 
their only concern. Works of art satisfied a variety of needs, 


such as a desire to honor God, celebrate beauty, express 
power, or promote spirituality. Whatever the motivation to 
make them, works of medieval art have an mtrigumgly 
human dimension. The rest of this book is devoted to an 
exploration of some of the purposes of medieval art and 
to those who commissioned it, made it, or were its audience. 
We will begin by examining artistic aspects of the ultimate 
concern of all medieval Christians, the relationship 
of life and death. 

Fig. 17. Scenes from the Life of the Virgin Mary (Expulsion of Joachim from the 
Temple, Annunciation to Joachim, Meeting at the Golden Gate, Birth of the Virgin, 
Presentation of the Virgin m the Temple, Betrothal of the Virgin), 1330-50, Italy 
(Florence) Embroidery (silk, gold, and silver threads on linen), L 121 cm (47 V, in.). 
Purchased with funds from the Florence Scott Libbey Endowment in Memory of 
her Father, Maurice A. Scott, 1954 85. 


A rare and delicate work in the Cloister Gallery reflects a 
new approach to artistic style that would eventually 
supercede the Gothic. An Italian embroidery dating to the 
mid-i30os, it displays scenes from the life of the Virgin 
Mary (fig. 17). Once part of an altar decoration — another 
portion of the same work is held by the Cleveland Museum 
of Art — the embroidery is about four feet long, and has 
figures only about four inches high. What they lack in scale, 
however, they make up for in solidity and monumentality. 
Displaying stout proportions, a strong sense of volume, 
relatively simple drapery, and strong interaction with space, 
they are very different from the sinuous figures of the 

Gothic (fig. 16). Indeed, they show a clear relationship to 
the work of the Florentine artist Giotto (pronounced "JAH- 
toe"), who lived from about 1266 to 1337. A contemporary 
of the great Italian poet Dante, Giotto is one of the most 
renowned artists in the western tradition. His artistic style 
is similar to that of the embroidery — both rely upon 
narrative imagery, feature robust and weighty figures, and 
depict rooms or buildings that convey a sense of three- 
dimensional space. Driven by a deepening interest in the 
natural world, Giotto and those influenced by him — like the 
designer of the Toledo embroidery — anticipated the 
humanistic naturalism of the Renaissance. 


Fig. 18. Entombment of Christ, late 15 th century, Flanders. Tapestry (wool and silk on 
wool), W 240 cm (94 'A in.). Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift 
of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1934.91. 



aoeDieval peopLe.- 
Tlr>e Liviwq pResewce opxl^e C>eAD 

In medieval Christian belief, the 

life, death, and ultimate destiny of 

human beings were central to the 

faith, relating to cosmic events that 

reached from Creation to the end of 

time. This would have been clear to 

any person visiting a church during 

the late Middle Ages. Walking 

around its interior, he or she would 

be surrounded by references 

to death and the afterlife. A 

church functioned as an enclosed 

graveyard, for example, its floors 

and walls lined with tombs 

embellished with works of 

sculpture. A fine example of this 

important type of art is a set of 

Italian tomb sculptures carved in 

brilliant white marble during the 

late 1300s (fig 19). So classical that 

they resemble the sculpture of 

ancient Rome, the figures on the outer blocks depict the 

Angel Gabriel announcing to the Virgin Mary that she is 

pregnant with the Christ Child. Flanked by the figures of 

this event, called the "Annunciation," is the seated Christ, 

whose throne calls to mind the words of Gabriel to Mary: 

"[Your son] shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the 

Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of 

David his father, . . . and of his kingdom there shall be no 

end." (Luke 1:32-33). Works such as this, produced in great 

quantity in the Middle Ages, served many purposes. 

In a worldly sense, the size and richness of tomb 

Let us keep in mind how brief time 
is, how certain death, and how 
unstable our friends, and let us 
always be prepared . . .for man is 
taken from our midst like a shadow 
when it fades. 2 
—from a sermon by a i4 th -century preacher 

sculptures reflected the status 
of the deceased but also 
commemorated them, allowing 
them to linger in the memory of 
the living. At the same time, they 
expressed the piety of the dead 
and reminded visitors of the 
imminence of death. 

Moving to the main altar of the 
church, a medieval visitor might 
see a large book sitting upon it, its 
sacred pages embellished with a 
cover much like the one discussed 
in Chapter II (fig. 6). Depicting the 
death of Christ, it also shows a 
small figure at the base of the 
cross, who raises his arms toward 
the body of Christ. Following a 
venerable artistic tradition, he 
represents Adam, who brought 
death into the world. Rising from 
his coffin, Adam acclaims Christ, who has delivered him 
and all of humankind from the certainty of eternal 
darkness. A similar motif is shown at the foot of the Cloister 
Gallery's Romanesque Processional Cross (fig. 14), a type of 
object that was sometimes displayed on the altar during 
the mass. 

If the visitor were a Christian, he or she w T ould know that 
the body of a holy person, or a fragment of it, was enshrined 
in or near the altar, and that the altar itself commemorated 
the death of Christ. There a priest sanctified bread 


Fig. 19. Tomb Sculpture; The Enthroned Christ Flanked by the Annunciation, with Mary (left) and the angel Gabriel (right), 
about 1375-1400, North Italy Marble, H 66.6 cm (26 7 4 in.). Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 1975.72A-C 

and wine that were miraculously transformed — 
"trans-substantiated" — into the body and blood of Christ 
(see sidebar page 11). 

A fifteenth-century Flemish tapestry makes explicit 
reference to this idea (fig. 18). It depicts the entombment of 
the crucified Christ by Joseph of Arimathea, Mary, and a 
number of followers. They have placed Christ's dead and 
bleeding body on a tomb that closely resembles an altar, a 
reference to the relationship of the Eucharist, the altar, and 
the body of Christ. 

On or near the altar, a medieval visitor might see works of 
art whose imagery reinforced its association with Christ's 
sacrifice. For example, painted or sculpted works, called 
retables (pronounced REH-tah-bulls), were placed at the 
back of late medieval altars. An excellent example is the 
Crucifixion panel from the Museum's Retable of St. Andrew, 
a six-part panel painting of the late 1400s (fig. 20). The 
depiction of Christ's death is explicit, even gruesome, as is 

its depiction of Adam's skull at the foot of the cross. 
Juxtaposing the dead Adam and the crucified Christ, its 
bold imagery would have been highly appropriate as a 
backdrop to the Eucharistic bread and wine. When seen in 
the larger context of medieval art, the Retable and other 
works in the Cloister Gallery show that a paramount 
concern of medieval Christians was their eternal destiny 
beyond the grave. 

xT}e siQwipicAMce op oeATt} amD 
upe pope por ReDecDpxioN 

The medieval preoccupation with death derived from some 
of the most fundamental tenets of Christianity. As 
described in Genesis, God created the first people, Adam 
and Eve, as immortal beings. Tempted by the serpent and 
disobeying God, Adam and Eve brought death upon 
themselves and all of their descendants. Through his 
incarnation as a human being and his death on the cross, 


however, Christ restored to humankind the hope for eternal 
life. These ideas are essential to the depiction of the 
Annunciation on the Tomb Sculpture and the 
representation of Adam and the crucified Christ on the Book 
Cover, Processional Cross, and Retable of St. Andrew. For 
medieval people, salvation came through participation in 
the sacraments of the church, as is clear from the 
Entombment Tapestry. Its allusion to the Eucharist, its rich 
representation of flowers and vegetation, and its dedication 
"to the Redeemer of Humankind" (Humani Generis 
Rede[m]ptori) are clear references to the life-giving aspects 
of Christ's sacrifice. In its depiction of an enthroned Christ, 
the Tomb Sculpture makes reference to another belief 
essential to medieval Christianity and its imagery: that 
Christ would bring time to an end and judge all of mankind. 


Tl}e Last juOQGoeMT 

While many works in the Cloister Gallery represent the 
outlook of medieval people in regard to death, two works 
dramatically represent the fate of the dead. One is a small 
English panel, carved from alabaster in the mid-fifteenth 
century, which depicts the moment of the Last Judgment 
(fig. 21). One of the most important subjects in Gothic 
sculpture, this terrifying event is related in Matthew 25:31- 
46. Christ describes the awesome occasion at the end of 
time when he will separate the just from the wicked, 
consigning them to heaven or hell: 

... the Son of Man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with 
him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory; and before him will be 
gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another, 
as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and he will set 
the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.... Then the king 
will say to those on his right hand, "Come, blessed of my Father, take 
possession of the kingdom prepared for you...." [He] will say to those 
on his left hand, "Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting 
fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels." 



Fig. 20. Master of Geria, Crucifixion panel from the Retable of Saint Andrew, about 
1475-1500, Spain (Castile). Oil on wood panel, H 92 cm (36 7 4 in). Purchased with 
funds from the Libbey Endowment. Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1955 214A-F. 

The doors of many Gothic churches, including the great 
cathedrals of Paris, Chartres, and Amiens, were crowned by 
immense sculptural representations of these haunting 
words (fig. 22). The English panel is one of several sculptural 
works in the Cloister Gallery that shows the influence of 
the monumental examples found in church doorways. 
Somewhat worn, but showing traces of its original paint, 
the panel depicts the heavenly Christ enthroned on a 
cosmic rainbow, his feet resting on an orb that represents 
the universe. As in the words of Matthew and the doorway 
sculptures from cathedrals, Christ is surrounded by angels. 
While their hands are damaged, it is clear that they 
originally held the "instruments of the Passion," the 
implements used to torture and crucify Christ. The agony 
of his death is further emphasized by the display of his 
wounded hands, feet, and side. Just below Christ, a huddling 


Fig. 21, The Last Judgment, about 1460, English (Nottingham). 
Alabaster with paint and gilding, H 39.2 cm (15 '/,<, in.). 
Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of 
Edward Drummond Libbey, 1969.230 

mass of small, praying figures — we can easily imagine their 
deference and apprehension — vividly expresses the 
fragility of human hope in the face of ultimate power. 
Summoned from their graves, they are about to endure the 
Last Judgment. Connecting them and Christ are images of 
the Virgin Mary and St. John. Their presence in heaven 
expresses the belief that Mary and the saints are in an ideal 
position to intercede with Christ on behalf of the devout. 

While the Judgment itself is not shown in the alabaster 
panel, it is represented on an outstanding Gothic capital 
from the arcade of St.-Pons-de-Thomieres. Like many 
cathedral portals, it depicts the weighing of souls of the 
risen dead by the archangel Michael and the Devil (fig. 23). 
They flank a balance scale, whose pans contain the tiny 
figures of timid mortals. The Devil, whose hair is aflame 
and whose feet are predatory talons, is helped by a demon 

Fig. 22. The Last Judgment, from the central tympanum of the south transept, 
Cathedral of Chartres (France), about 1210-15. 

to manipulate the scale, hoping to claim an inhabitant for 
Hell. To the right, other demons — the "Devil's angels" — 
oversee the dismal procession of those sinners who have 
failed in the quest for Heaven. Bound together with a long 
chain, the condemned make their way around the capital, 
trudging toward their doom. Before them looms the 
terrifying entrance to Hell itself — the gaping mouth of a 
giant dog (fig. 24). Demons with pitchforks and tongs fling 
the sinners into its waiting jaws and stoke its flames with 
a bellows. This vivid imagery recalls the equally vivid words 
of the monk Anselm of Bee, who in the late eleventh century- 
recorded a fearful meditation: 

Sulphurous flames, flames of Hell, eddying darkness, swirling with 
terrible sounds... Devils that burn with us, raging with fire and 
gnashing your teeth in madness, why are you so cruel to those who 
roll among you? 3 

Within the jaws of Hell, a cauldron overflows with those 
suffering eternal pain, while on the side of the capital 
facing the Cloister Gallery courtyard, a demon tortures a 
nude woman, a personification of lust. Such dramatic 
images, featured prominently, were a reminder to all of the 
medieval notion of the end of the world. 


Fig. 23. The Last Judgment: Weighing of Souls, St. -Pons 1929208 


speciAL C>eAD 

While all human beings were subject to death, a few — 
called by one historian "the very special dead" 4 — played 
crucial roles in the world of the living. These were the saints, 
whose importance and popularity are forcefully 
represented in the Cloister Gallery. Whether depicted in 
architectural sculpture, metalwork, embroidery, painting, 
or other media, images of saints surround the gallery 
visitor. This is not surprising, for veneration of the saints — 
men and women recognized for their extraordinary 
spirituality and religious devotion — was one of the most 
essential aspects of medieval Christianity. Saints were 
recognized for their courageous and ascetic lives, intense 
battles with the forces of evil, and — with God's power 
working through them — the performance of miracles. 
Exemplary Christians, their humanity, suffering, and 
spiritual power inspired people from all walks of life. 
Particularly venerated were martyrs, saints who had 
suffered death rather than deny their faith. 

The Cloister Gallery's most elaborate artistic treatment of 
a saint is found in relief carvings on capitals in the arcade 
from the monastery of St.-Pons-de-Thomieres (see page 34 








Fig. 24. Hell. St.-Pons. 1929.208 

and diagram pages 62-63). The capitals depict scenes from 
the early life and martyrdom of the monastery's patron 
saint, St. Pons. The imagery depends upon episodes 
recorded in the fifth century by Bishop Valerianus of Cimiez, 
a town near Nice, where St. Pons was martyred. While 
known today to be legendary, the story of St. Pons inspired 
a notable cult in the south of France during the Middle Ages. 

According to Valerianus, Pons was born in Rome during the 
third century, an era notorious for the imperial 
administration's sporadic persecutions of Christians. 
Although his parents were pagans, Pons converted to 
Christianity and was baptized into the faith by Pope 
Pontian (230-235). As a devout Christian, Pons was 
courageous in his refusal to participate in pagan ritual and, 
remarkably, was said to have converted the Emperor Philip 
the Arab (244-249). A thirteenth-century capital from the 
St.-Pons arcade represents important elements of Pons's 
early life in Rome: his baptism (fig. 25), his refusal to perform 
pagan sacrifice (fig. 26), and what may be an image of the 
Emperor Philip on horseback . 

Two earlier capitals, carved in a Romanesque style of the 
twelfth century, deal with the saint's martyrdom in Gaul, 
where Pons moved to convert pagans to Christianity. In the 


Fig. 25. Baptism 
of St. Pons, 


Fig 26. St. Pons 

refuses to sacrifice, 


Fig. 27. St. Pons and 
the bears, 1929.203 

Fig. 28. Execution of 
St. Pons, 1929.207 

late 250s the Emperor Valerian (253-259) renewed the 
persecution of Christians, and Pons was captured, tried, and 
tortured by the Romans at Cimiez. One of the Toledo 
capitals depicts his trial before a Roman official and an 
attempt to execute him by throwing him into a cage of bears 
(fig. 27). Miraculously, the animals refused to maul him, an 
incident recalling the story of the Jewish prophet Daniel's 
deliverance in the den of lions (Daniel 6:16-24). Empowered 
by his faith, Pons was finally beheaded. In a poignant image 
on one of the reliefs facing the center of the Cloister Gallery, a 
Roman soldier brings his sword to the neck of St. Pons. 
Kneeling in prayer, the saint is steadfast to the end (fig. 28). 

Intriguingly, the power of saints such as Pons increased after 
their deaths. The church celebrated them for their sanctity, 
establishing feast days in the annual liturgical calendar — 
that of St. Pons was May 14 — when masses were said in their 
honor. Christians received their names at birth, invoked 
them as patron saints, and prayed for their support. 
Hagiography, the writing of the lives of saints, was one of 
the most popular forms of medieval literature, and helped 
disseminate their stories. Some, such as St. Pons, were 
celebrated locally or regionally, while others, such as the 
Apostles, were celebrated throughout Christendom. 

Two important beliefs enhanced the importance of the 
saints. Like those of ordinary people, the bodies of dead 
saints remained on earth. At the moment of death, 
however, saints' souls rose to heaven, where they could 
communicate directly with God. As a result, living 
Christians on earth prayed to departed saints, at one time 
human beings like themselves, to intercede with God. 
Another important belief held that prayers to the saints 
were ideally offered close to their remains. Indeed, so 
effectual were the saints that miracles were commonly 
reported at sites preserving their bodies. An inscription at 
the tomb of St. Martin of Tours, for example, reads: 

Here lies Martin the bishop, of holy memory, whose soul is in the hand 
of God; but he is fully here, present and made plain by miracles of 
every kind. s 


Fig. 29. Chasse with Crucifixion, early i3 lh century, France (Limoges). Champleve 
enamel on gilded copper, H 19 cm (7 7, in.). Purchased with funds from the Libbey 
Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1949 36. 

The power of saints could be experienced at their graves 
but even in the presence of fragments of their bodies or 
belongings. Known as relics, these objects were the subject 
of passionate veneration. So important was this aspect of 
medieval Christianity that, from the 8oos on, only altars 
that contained relics could be used for the sacrament of the 
Eucharist. Belief in the spiritual power of relics motivated 
religious pilgrims to travel the length and breadth of 
Christendom — and beyond its frontiers — to come into their 
presence. Their power also led to the production of special 
containers to protect and honor them and to manifest their 
power and meaning to medieval Christians. Known as 
reliquaries (pronounced REL-ih-kwair-ees), these containers 
are one of the most important forms of medieval art, and 
are particularly well represented in the Cloister Gallery. 

Relics amD ReLiquARies 

A common form of reliquary, represented by several 
examples in the Cloister Gallery, is known as a chasse 
(pronounced SHAHSS). Resembling a metal building with 
a sloping roof, a chasse is elevated on legs and has a 
rectangular plan, vertical walls, and a gabled lid. It usually 
enclosed a rectangular wood box that housed the relic itself. 

A particularly notable example in the Museum was made 
by metalworkers at Limoges in the early 1200s (fig. 29). On 
its gilded main face is a representation in colored enamels 
of the Crucifixion. Just above, on the sloping face of the lid, 
is a seated image of Christ. As in the alabaster relief (fig. 
21), he is seated on a cosmic rainbow, but here he holds a 
book and makes a sign of blessing. The almond-shaped 
field in which he sits is a halo for his entire body; called a 
mandorla, it represents divine illumination. Surrounding 
the seated Christ are four medallions that contain, 
starting at upper right and reading clockwise, the head of 
an eagle, a calf, a lion, and a man. This representation of an 
enthroned, cosmic Christ and the four living creatures is 
an example of a motif widespread in medieval art. Called 
Christ in Majesty, it represents the vision of St. John recorded 
in the last book of the New Testament (known as the 
Apocalypse to Catholics and Revelations to Protestants). In 
the biblical text (4:1-11), the four creatures surround the 
enthroned Christ as he establishes his heavenly kingdom 
at the end of time. In addition to the Crucifixion and Christ 
in Majesty, the chasse displays, on front, back, and sides, 
representations of haloed saints — the very special dead — 
framed by the arches of the heavenly city. 

Now empty and housed in a display case, the work is a 
beautiful, even stirring, memento of a bygone age. When 
imagined in its original context on a medieval altar, 
however, its luminous materials, imagery, and sacred 
contents eloquently addressed the concerns of every 
medieval Christian: Christ's sacrifice has opened the gates 
of heaven, the saints have joined him there, and are 
miraculously present to help others find the way. 


Fig. 30. Crosier Head, i3' h century, France (Limoges). Champleve enamel on gilded 
copper, H 16.5 cm (6 '/, in,). Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, 
Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1950.251 



ooeDievAL veojiLe: xl^e Livikiq 

The art of the Cloister Gallery 

clearly reflects the focus on 

mortality and concern for the 

dead fundamental to the 

worldview of every medieval 

Christian. For the remainder of 

this book we will see what it has 

to tell us about people's earthly 

lives, which were considerably 

varied. We will examine some 

of the key roles people played 

in medieval society, their ambitions, and their interests. 

More particularly, we will see how variations in social 

status motivated diverse relationships to art and 

architecture. Essential topics will be the kinds of people 

who appear in works of art, commissioned the works, their 

reasons for doing so, and the audiences they wished to 

reach. Finally, we will discuss artists — the craftspeople who 

made the works in the gallery — and aspects of their 

working lives. 

To understand medieval people we must know something 
of what medieval people thought about themselves and the 
structure of their society. Medieval writers recorded various 
approaches, defining the human community in terms of 
factors such as political power, gender, noble or non-noble 
birth, religious affiliation, or economic function. Writing 
about 1020, Bishop Adalbero of Laon expressed a concise 
and often-repeated formulation of medieval society based 
upon people's functions. In commenting upon the earthly 
roles of living human beings, he wrote: 

Here below, some pray, others fight, 
still others work. . .. 6 

By this, Adalbero meant 
that medieval society was 
composed of three essential 
groups. Two relatively small 
ones made up the medieval 
elite: those who had a religious 
vocation and those secular 
nobles who made up the 
warrior aristocracy. Beneath 
them in the social hierarchy was the vast majority of 
medieval people, ordinary laborers, who in Adalbero's 
lifetime consisted mostly of agricultural workers. While 
simplistic, his scheme is useful in understanding basic 
human contexts of medieval art and architecture. 
Following Adalbero's social hierarchy, we first take up those 
people whose lives focused on the sacred. 


jieov^e of TY>e courcp 

In writing of a distinct group of people "who pray," Adalbero 
referred not to Christians in general but to the members of 
society who had religious vocations. They included 
churchmen, monks, and nuns. Churchmen — referred to as 
the lay clergy because they ministered to lay society — 
belonged to the ecclesiastical hierarchy whose lines of 
authority descended from the Pope in Rome through 
bishops to local priests. Their essential function was to 
administer the sacraments, including Baptism and the 
Eucharist, to members of the faith (see sidebar page 11). 



This Gothic stained glass panel, probably once part of a 

larger window, depicts the image of a sainted Bishop. 

His garments, referred to as vestments, are symbols of 

his priestly office and episcopal authority, and derive 

from the apparel of the late Roman Empire. An obvious 

indication of his status as bishop is his pointed hat, called 

a mitre. It would have been richly embroidered and 

brightly colored, and, as is clearly delineated in black 

paint, embellished with gems. Several of the garments 

worn by a medieval bishop are clearly visible. The green 

outer one, open at the sides and dropping to the level 

of the knees, is a 

chasuble, whose name 

derives from the Latin 

casula (meaning "little 

house"). The longest of 

the undergarments is 

a white, floor-length 

tunic, called an alb, that 

has long sleeves and is 

embroidered in yellow 

near the hem. Hanging 

from the Bishop's 

left arm is a brightly 

embroidered strip of 

cloth referred to as 

a maniple. When fully 

dressed to participate in 

the liturgy, a bishop 

would also wear special 

slippers and gloves. This 

saint's status as a bishop 

is also indicated by his 

gesture of blessing, the 

ring he wears on his 

riohthanrl and hi<; staff Fig- 31. Bi^op, 14"' century, possibly France. 

ngni nana, ana nis sian stained glass H 20? cm (8o in , Purchased 
of office, called a crosier. "J* f f u J\ ds fr °™ the Llbb 7 Endowment 

Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1945.21. 

Bishops Bishops held powerful positions in 

the church hierarchy and had particularly strong 
associations with art and architecture. Their episcopal 
powers — from episcopus, Latin for "bishop" — included 
ecclesiastical control over large administrative domains, 
called dioceses. The latter consisted of numerous parishes, 
whose priests were subordinate to their bishop, as 
generally were the abbots of any monasteries situated 
within the diocese. 

A bishop usually exercised his power from an architectural 
complex situated in a great town m his diocese. His 
buildings generally included an episcopal palace, a hospital, 
an almonry (a facility for aiding the poor), and a great 
church, called a cathedral. The latter, a unique building in 
the diocese, derived its name from the throne of a bishop, 
called in Latin a cathedra. Bishops were often intimately 
connected with the maintenance and artistic 
embellishment of their cathedrals and often led the efforts 
to initiate new campaigns of construction. 

Bishops were also enormously important to the production 
of many forms of medieval art. The garments they and 
other clergy wore during church ceremonies, called 
vestments, were luxurious (see sidebar). As we have seen 
in Chapter III, their buildings were filled with a wide variety 
of objects like those on display in the Cloister Gallery. 
Indeed, it is highly probable that the lay clergy, and 
especially bishops, contracted with artists to produce a 
significant portion of them. They did so for several reasons, 
the two most important being to honor God and to help 
educate the illiterate masses in important aspects of 
the faith. 

art in T}ONOR op qoD As we have seen, it 

was quite normal for medieval artists to use precious 
materials to make works of art and to embellish them with 
brightly colored imagery and luminous decoration. The 
sumptuousness of medieval art derived from artistic 
traditions but was nurtured by an impulse to honor God. 

In the Cloister Gallery, there are many works that reflect 
this spiritual motivation. One is the head of a thirteenth- 
century crosier (pronounced CROW-zhur), a staff carried by 
a bishop to express the solemn nature of his office (fig. 30). 
Its shaft and spiraling head call to mind a shepherd's crook 
and symbolize the bishop's symbolic role as "shepherd to 
his flock." In medieval belief, the bishop was an earthly 
representative of Christ, and it was only through his 
ordained power to administer the church sacraments that 
members of his flock could achieve eternal salvation. The 
Bishop was thus an intermediary between God in heaven 
and humans on earth. 

The Crosier Head depicts the archangel Michael defeating 
a dragon, a deed that symbolized the triumph of good over 
evil. Modern eyes might see in its craftsmanship, sinuous 
forms, brightly colored enamels, and glittering surfaces a 
mere expression of the power, wealth, and status of a 
bishop, but this would not be the case. In medieval eyes, 
the artistic enrichment of objects made for the use of the 
Church honored God, not the individual mortal who used 
the objects. 

Other types of works frequently embellished to honor God 
were books. In order to conduct its worship — and for other 
purposes — the Church needed many types of texts, 
including sacred ones. Examples include the Bible, the 
Psalter (a volume containing the Psalms), and the Gospel 
Book (devoted to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Books 
made prior to the invention of the printing press in the 
fifteenth century are called manuscripts, a term meaning 
they were written by hand (from the Latin manus, "hand," 
and scriptura, "writing"). Of course a medieval scribe could 
write a copy of such a text using no ornament, color, or 
elaborate letters, and the book would still retain its 
meaning and sacred character. By embellishing texts, 
however, with large, ornamented letters (fig. 32), or by 
illustrating various passages (fig. 49), the scribe 
underscored and celebrated the extraordinary power, 
meaning, and divine origin of the text. As we have seen, 

iwiiwr Lie«KJ. VAxumjViy^ 

Fig. 32. Illuminated initial "A," fragment of a manuscript leaf from the Book of Daniel 
in the Motteley Bible, late 12"' century, England. Vellum, H 13.7 cm (5 J / 8 in.). Museum 
Purchase, 1926.111. 

sacred texts could be further adorned through their 
bindings, whose covers often displayed rich imagery, 
luminous decoration and precious materials (fig. 6). 

art akjO Tl?e ILLITERATE In addition to 
honoring God, an important motivation for the production 
of religious art was the instruction of the illiterate in 
elements of the faith. The educational potential of the 
visual arts was already recognized in the later 
Roman Empire, when many Christians expended 
considerable energy and wealth to embellish their churches 
with imagery. Among them was the influential Paulinus 
of Nola, who built and decorated a number of churches in 
the south of Italy during the late fourth and early fifth 
centuries. They included a church dedicated to St. Felix, 
which attracted throngs of the illiterate poor: 


Fig. 33. The Trinity, about 1480, England (Nottingham). Alabaster with paint and 
gilding, H 53.3 cm (21 in.). Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, 
Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey. 1969.229. 

...the majority of the crowd here are peasant people, not devoid of 
religion but not able to read. These people, for long accustomed to 
profane cults, in which their belly was their God, are at last converted 
into proselytes for Christ while they admire the works of the saints 
in Christ open to everybody's gaze. 7 

Acknowledging the positive experience of Paulinus and 
many others, Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) sanctioned 
the Church's use of art for educational purposes. In a text 
widely distributed in the Middle Ages, he wrote: 

Painting is admissible in churches, in order that those who are 
illiterate may still read by seeing on the walls what they cannot read 
in books. 8 

An excellent example of a work that conveys important 
aspects of the faith is an alabaster relief of the Trinity carved 
in England m the 1300s (fig. 33). Like its companion panel 
of the Last Judgment (fig. 21), it was part of the imagery 
embellishing a church altar. It once depicted a crowned God 
the Father, the dove of the Holy Spirit (originally between 
God and Christ), and the crucified Christ. This imagery ably 
represents the complex nature of the divine and, by 
showing the Crucifixion, demonstrates the relationship of 
Christ's incarnation and sacrifice to his redemption of 
mankind. Finally, in its depiction of two angels at the foot 
of the cross, who catch Christ's blood in a liturgical chalice 
(see fig. 5), it underscores the connection between the blood 
of Christ and the Eucharistic wine. Honoring God, the panel 
translates complex doctrine into comprehensible imagery 
instructive to illiterate lay worshippers. 

While literacy was rare in the lay population that used 
most churches and cathedrals, such was not the case in the 
populations of monasteries and convents, whose art and 
architecture served different religious functions. 

CDONJkS AMD NUNS Numbered with the 

clergy as spiritual guardians of society — "those who 
pray" — were monks and nuns. These men and women 
withdrew from the world to live ascetic lives of humility, 
prayer, and spiritual contemplation in the isolated settings 
of monasteries or convents. Like the lay clergy, most 
communities of monks and nuns developed highly 
sophisticated approaches to art and architecture. Some 
were artists themselves (see fig. 34), and monastic leaders — 
aiming to honor God — commissioned countless works of 
art. Indeed, monks were certainly responsible for the 
sculpted arcades from St.-Pons-de-Thomieres and Notre- 
Dame-de-Pontaut (figs. 4 and 2). 


The architectural forms of the medieval cloister grew out 
of the monastic ideology of St. Benedict of Nursia (about 
480-550), who founded the Italian monastery of Monte 
Cassino in the early Middle Ages. There he wrote a famous 
treatise, the Rule, which is a spiritual and constitutional 
guide for the successful operation of a communal 
monastery. Composed of seventy-three short chapters, its 
precepts are both spiritual and practical, and depend upon 
the pious exercise of love and humility. Monks were to give 
up all personal property, live communal lives that were 
chaste and moderately ascetic, and give strict obedience to 
the abbot, the monastery's spiritual father and 
administrator. Essential monastic activities were to include 
rounds of prayer (the opus divina, or "divine work"), the 
reading of sacred works (the lectio divina, or "divine 
reading"), and manual labor (the opus manuum, or "work 
of the hands"). Practical guidelines were also established 
for the conduct of ordinary human activities, such as eating, 
sleeping, and the functioning of economic activity in the 
monastery (see sidebar pages 42-43). 

First expressed in the 500s, Benedict's ideas were of 
relatively minor importance until the 800s, when hundreds 
of monasteries in the Frankish kingdom were reorganized 
according to the precepts of his Rule. At the same time, 
monastic builders created a highly functional and 
aesthetically pleasing scheme for the monastic 
environment, which became a spatial expression of 
Benedictine principles. 

CLOISTGK AKCljLTeCTURe By necessity, a 

medieval monastery was conceived as both a center of 
communal spirituality and an independent economic 
community. The new approach to monastic planning 
ingeniously organized the monastery according to 
Benedictine principles, laying out the monastery as a set 
of concentric zones. The outer zone was largely devoted to 
buildings and spaces needed for crafts and agricultural 
activities. At the center lay the spiritual nucleus of the 

Fig. 34 Lorenzo Monaco. Madonna Enthroned, from a ten-part altarpiece, about 
1395, Italy (Florence). Tempera and gilding on wood panel, H 123.7 cm (48 "/ l6 in.). 
Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond 
Libbey, 1976.22. Lorenzo was a monk in a Florentine monastery of the 
Camaldolese order; he illuminated manuscripts as well as painting 
altarpieces and devotional images. 

A 1 

xfre Rule of st. BeweCncT anD Tl?e aoeDievAL cnoKJASTeRY 

In the early 8oos, monks adopted the Rule of St. Benedict 
for all monasteries in the Carolingian Empire, and 
monastery plans became architectural expressions of its 
guidelines for communal life (fig. 35). In Chapter 33, for 
example, Benedict writes of the voluntary poverty and 
communal life of the monastery: 

No one, without leave of the abbot, shall presume to give, or receive, 
or keep as his own, anything whatsoever; neither book, nor table, 
nor pen; nothing at all. All things are to be common to all.... 9 

Chapter 66 calls for an isolated setting for the monastery, its 
economic independence, and its housing of crafts (fig. 35E): 

[The monastery] ought, if possible, to be so constructed as to contain 
within it all the necessaries, that is, water, mill, garden and [places 
for] the various crafts which are exercised within a monastery, so 
that there be no occasion for monks to wander abroad.... 

A centralized cloister (fig. 35A) expressed monastic isolation, 
enclosure, and community; it also connected spaces set 
aside for specific activities called for in the Rule. The daily 
round of prayer, called the Divine Office, is specified in 
Chapter 16, which names the appointed hours: 

The prophet says, 'Seven times I have sung Thy praises.' This sacred 
number of seven will be kept by us if we perform the duties of our 
service in the hours of Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, None, Evensong, 
and Compline. It was of these day hours the prophet said, 'Seven 
times a day I have sung Thy praises,' for of the night watches the 
same prophet says, 'At midnight I arose to confess to Thee.' At these 
times, therefore, let us give praise to our Creator for His just 
judgments, that is, at Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, None, Evensong, and 
Compline, and at night let us rise to confess to Him. 

Chapter 52 sites the church, referred to as the "Oratory" 
as the place to be devoted exclusively to prayer (fig. 35B): 

Let the Oratory be what its name signifies, and let nothing else be 
done or discussed there. When the Work of Cod' is ended let all 
depart in strict silence, in the reverence of God, so that the brother 
who may wish to pray privately may not be hindered by the 
misconduct of another. 

Chapter 22 calls for a special place and manner of sleeping 
(fig- 35G): 

If it be possible let [the monks] all sleep in a common dormitory.... In 
this way the monks shall always be ready to rise quickly when the 
signal is given and hasten each one to come before his brother to 
the Divine Office, and yet with all gravity and modesty... When they 
rise for the Divine Office let them gently encourage one another, 
because of the excuses made by those that are drowsy. 

Arrangements for eating are discussed in Chapter 38 (fig. 35K): 

There ought always to be reading [of a sacred text] whilst the 
brethren eat at table. Silence shall be kept, so that no whispering, 
nor noise, save the voice of the reader alone, be heard there. 

Finally, Chapter 6 6 calls for the monks' familiarity with the 
Rule (fig. 35H): 

We wish this Rule to be read frequently in the community so that 
no brother may plead ignorance as an excuse. 

From the Carolingian world, the new type of monastery 
with cloister passed to the Romanesque and Gothic eras, 
where it exhibited increasingly complex forms of sculptural 
embellishment (figs. 7, 13, and 37). 






C □ D 


Fig. 35. The plan of a medieval monastery with cloister. This drawing is adapted from the Plan of St. Gall, the earliest surviving architectural plan of the Middle Ages. Created 
around 820, it shows the layout of a Carolingian Benedictine monastery. Similar plans were used throughout the Romanesque and Gothic eras. The plan makes provision for 
the following spaces: A) cloister; B) church (oratory), C) choir (part of the church set aside for monks to chant prayers; D) altars; E) scriptorium and library (for the production and 
storage of books); F) night stairs (connecting the dormitory with the church for nightly prayers); G) dormitory on second floor, over H) the chapter house (set aside for meetings 
and the reading of chapters of the Rule of St. Benedict); I) privy; J) bath house and laundry; K) refectory (for communal dining with reading); L) kitchen; M) cellar and larder (for 
provisions); and N) entrance to the cloister. 


Fig- 36. Capital with kneeling monk (right) and priest (left). Pontaut, 1931.86. 

monastic community, a connected series of spaces reserved 
exclusively for the monks and their daily activities. They 
included a church for the celebration of the mass and daily 
prayer, a room for daily meetings of the monastic 
community a dormitory for sleeping, a refectory for eating, 
a kitchen for cooking, and a storage area for food and drink. 
Most importantly, these essential spaces were organized 
around a courtyard — the cloister — to unify the monastery's 
central zone. 

The cloister was most perfectly realized in plan, form, and 
artistic embellishment during the Romanesque era (fig. 37). 
In most Benedictine monasteries of the eleventh and 
twelfth centuries, the cloister provided access to water, 
fresh air, and natural light on a sunny day, while its arcaded 
walkways provided shelter from hot sun, snow, or rain. The 
cloister walkways and buildings also connected spaces 
essential to the daily life of a Benedictine monk (see fig. 
35). On one side, generally the north, lay the church, to be 
entered for prayer seven times a day and once at night. To 
make nighttime prayer as convenient as possible, the 
dormitory was placed adjacent to the church and 
constructed with a set of stairs leading down to the church 

choir, the space set aside for the chanting of prayer. Near 
the dormitory lay a communal meeting room called the 
chapter house. Here the monks held daily meetings to 
conduct mundane business but also listened to the reading 
of one of the chapters of the Rule of St. Benedict. Another 
building forming a side of the cloister was the refectory. 
Set aside for dining, it was usually situated opposite the 
church at the southern end of the cloister. A variety of 
buildings, including storage facilities for both kitchen and 
refectory, might be on the western arcade. In function, and 
as a symbol of enclosure, the cloister was the perfect 
expression of the monastic way of life. 

ART Of TY>e CLOISTGR Within the private 

world of the cloister, monks or nuns used art to honor God 
but also as a source of spiritual inspiration. A monk 
contemplating the capitals in the cloister of St.-Pons-de- 
Thomieres, for example, would be reminded of such 
matters as the courage and steadfast example of the 
martyred St. Pons (fig. 28), the certainty of the Last 
Judgment (fig. 23), and the perils of damnation (fig. 24). For 
many of the encloistered, the use of such imagery could 
reinforce their spiritual vigor, sustaining them in their lives 
of renunciation. For some monks, however, the use of art 
was seen as inappropriate to the spiritual environment of 
the monastery. This ascetic attitude was especially 
important in the ideology of the Cistercians, an order of 
monks founded during the late eleventh century. During 
the Romanesque era, when they enjoyed great success, the 
Cistercians minimized the use of art and rich materials in 
their churches, banishing sculpture from the cloister 
altogether. Ironically, a praying monk is sculpted on the 
arcade from the Cistercian monastery of Pontaut (fig. 36). 
Dating to about 1400, it is the product of an era in which 
the Cistercians had long abandoned the rigors of their early 
artistic policies. 



While the battle of good and evil was the central drama of 
monastic life, real battles also took place in the medieval 
world. As in many historic eras, the evolution of weapons, 
the formation of armies, and the status of warriors had an 
enormous effect on the organization of medieval society. 
It is not surprising that in his overview of society Bishop 
Adalbero saw soldiers — "those who fight" — as one of the 
three groups essential to Christian civilization. Writing at 
the beginning of the eleventh century, Adalbero lived at a 
time when an emerging concept of secular leadership 
called for a combination of boldness, birth from a noble 
bloodline, and military expertise. 

The hereditary nobility in the Middle Ages included kings, 
but its most numerous members were regional lords, whose 
domains ranged from enormous dukedoms to small 
manors. Whatever their place in the hierarchy of power, the 
primary pursuits of noblemen were holding and managing 
of landed estates, administering justice, and conducting 
war. They constructed the era's impressive fortified castles 
and palatial houses and commissioned a wide variety of 
works of art. The latter included objects expressing secular 
authority and power, tomb sculptures, luxury objects 
associated with the lavish practices of courtly life (fig. 42), 
and many religious objects used in private devotion. 
Whether through pious generosity or fear of damnation, 
many members of the nobility were also benefactors to 
monasteries and churches, providing lands, funds, and 
works of art. 

While few members of the secular nobility are depicted in 
the Cloister Gallery, a number of works embody their values 
or represent their appearances, if only indirectly. This is 
particularly true of their weapons and armor. The 
importance of a nobleman's skill in the use of arms, 
acquired through lengthy and arduous practice, is attested 

Fig. 37. Romanesque cloister of Santo Domingo de Silos, near Burgos, northern 
Spain. Still an active monastery, its lower arcade contains some of the finest 
Romanesque sculpture in existence. 

in this twelfth-century passage by Roger of Hoveden, in 
which he describes the military training of the sons of King 
Henry II of England: 

They strove to outdo others in handling weapons. They realized that 
without practice the art of war did not come naturally when it was 
needed. No athlete can fight tenaciously who never received any 
blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack under the 
fist of his adversary, and when he is thrown to the ground he must 
fight on with all his might and not lose courage. The oftener he falls, 
the more determinedly he must spring to his feet again. Anyone who 
can do that can engage in battle confidently. 10 


Fig. 38. Capital with knights. St-Pons, 1929.206. 

A few works in the Cloister Gallery give an excellent idea 
of the arms and armor necessary to the life of a nobleman. 
This is due to a fascinating aspect of medieval artistic 
practice: when representing events of the distant past — 
biblical episodes or scenes from Roman history for 
example — artists often depicted people in the clothing of 
contemporary medieval society. Thus, a representation of 
a biblical king might wear the robes and crown of 
a contemporary one, or an ancient soldier the armor of 
a medieval knight. 

An example of this artistic practice can be seen on a Gothic 
capital from St.-Pons-de-Thomieres that depicts Christ's 
arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (fig. 38). Two Roman 
soldiers who struggle with the Apostles — one flies head 
over heels! — are excellent representations of medieval 

knights. Each wears a hauberk (pronounced HAW-burk), a 
garment of interlocking metal rings that had short sleeves, 
was open at the bottom, and was donned over the head 
like a sweater. Each soldier wears a mail hood to shield head 
and neck, and chausses, mail "hose" to protect the legs. The 
hem of a cloth undergarment shows below the hauberk of 
the soldier to the left, and a belt circles his waist. The latter 
is an important detail, for a belt not only helped a knight 
carry his sheathed sword but also eased the burden of mail 
armor's considerable weight. The carved capital gives a 
clear picture of medieval armor typical of the eleventh 
through the thirteenth centuries, with but two 
exceptions — when fully armed for battle, a knight in mail 
armor would also have carried a shield and worn a helmet 
composed of protective plates of iron or steel. 

kKUGt}TS AND l}ORSes Noblemen, of course, 
did not fight as ordinary foot soldiers. As part of the premier 
weapon system of medieval Europe, the elite heavy cavalry, 
they fought on horseback. Several works in the Museum 
collections reflect the world of the mounted knight, but 
none more fully than St. George and the Dragon, an 
anonymous painting of the late fifteenth century (fig. 39). 
Although the setting of this legendary tale is the Roman 
Empire, the depictions of military equipment and secular 
architecture reflect the world of the very late Middle Ages. 

Like St. Pons, St. George was a legendary Christian martyr 
of the third century. The subject of the painting, which was 
this popular saint's most famous deed, is his rescue of a 
young woman from an evil dragon. The monster was 
ravaging a pagan city, which appeased the beast by 
sacrificing to it, every day, one of its youth. St. George 
happened upon this desperate situation just as the 
daughter of the city's king, selected by lot as the next 
victim, bravely headed to her death. According to the 
Golden Legend, a thirteenth-century book devoted to the 
deeds of the saints: ". . . at the very moment when the 


dragon drew nigh to devour the maiden, St. George, making 
the sign of the cross, set upon him and slew him with one 
blow." 11 The maiden survived, and, awed by the saint's great 
faith and incredible courage, she and her city converted to 

In the painting's rendition of the story, St. George is the very- 
image of a late medieval nobleman in full battle array. His 
plate armor, which is covered by a cloth garment called a 
surcoat, reflects an advance in protection over the mail 
armor of earlier centuries (see sidebar page 51). Particularly 
important is his spear, which, with the sword, were the 
essential weapons of the medieval knight on horseback. 
Also depicted with accuracy is the war saddle; provided 
with stirrups and a high front and back, it gave a mounted 
knight the secure seating necessary for the effective use of 
his weapons. Equipped in this way, a knight became one 
with his horse, using the spear to deliver deadly force to 
his opponents, whether dragons or enemy soldiers. 
Needless to say, such a potent fighting unit — expensive to 
arm, train, and maintain — was particularly effective in a 
massed charge of cavalry. 

1}€R.\LC>RY AND Tl^e SftieLD Another significant 
object depicted in St. George and the Dragon is the shield 
embellished with the cross. While this symbolizes his status 
as a warrior of Christ, it also reflects both military and 
symbolic concerns of the warrior class. Essential for 
protecting a knight, the shield also took on artistic 
significance during the Romanesque era. In the middle of 
the twelfth century, artists began to decorate shields with 
combinations of symbols — geometric patterns, plants, 
animals — which formed the basis for the new art of 
heraldry. While at first associated with warriors in general, 
heraldic symbols soon developed a strong association with 
members of the nobility, who passed on their unique 
imagery from generation to generation as personal 
property. As a consequence, heraldic devices became 

Fig. 39 Samt George and the Dragon, about 1480-90, France (Burgundy?). Oil on wood 
panel, H 49.5 cm (19 Vi in.) Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift 
of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1943.30. 

associated with the pride in lineage characteristic of 
medieval aristocrats. 

Excellent examples of the art of heraldry may be seen on a 
fourteenth-century enameled morse, an ornamental clasp 
worn by a medieval priest in vestments (fig. 40). At the 
center, a kneeling figure in robes prays to the Virgin Mary 
and infant Christ, who are flanked by Sts. Peter and Paul. 
Just below, the words Iacobus Garand Presbiter ("Jacob 
Garand Priest") most likely identify the churchman who 


Fig. 40. Morse, mid 14 th century, France. Champleve enamel on copper, with silver 
inlay and gilded copper appliques, H 17 cm (6 "/, 6 in.). Purchased with funds from 
the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1950.248. 

commissioned the clasp. To left and right are heraldic 
shields possibly relating the lineage of Jacob or that of a 
later owner. As many churchmen came from the ranks of 
the secular nobility, it is not surprising that a heraldic device 
could be used in an ecclesiastical context. 

CHIVALRY St. George and the Dragon reflects not 

only the arms and insignia of the late medieval knight but 
also a concept of ideal knighthood — chivalry — that began 
to emerge in the noos. While the word chivalry had no 
single definition shared by all medieval writers, some of its 
essential qualities are clear. Deriving from chevalier, a French 
word denoting a mounted warrior, chivalry had a military 
connotation, but one increasingly associated with knightly 
ethics and courtly sophistication. The ideal knight was to be 
skilled in arms, loyal, and courageous, but in his non-military 
life to have elegant manners, dress well, and be kind. 

An important aspect of chivalry was the association of the 
warrior's honor with Christian ideals. Knights were to fight 
courageously in defense of the faith and to protect the 
weak, but not for personal glory. The painting of St. George 
and the Dragon is a perfect expression of this ideal — the 
warrior saint fights boldly to protect a helpless city and its 
victims, does so in the name of Christ, and converts the city 
to Christianity. More specifically, he fights to rescue a 
beautiful young woman. The story's sublimated sexuality 
reflects one of the strongest ideals of chivalry — a knight's 
gentleness to women — but also expresses the late medieval 
interest in romance, a new model for the relationship of 
the sexes. Its essential qualities were expressed in an 
aristocratic literary genre, the romance, which emerged in 
the twelfth century in the south of France. Devoted to 
fantastic stories that often combine love, sophisticated 
courtliness, and deeds of valor, this new form of vernacular 
poetry provides important insights into the secular world 
of the aristocracy. 

subject of several of the Museum's Gothic ivories, including 
a luxuriously carved box (fig. 41). Probably made in northern 
France or Flanders in the late fourteenth century, its 
imagery is devoted to secular romantic scenes. The box is 
composed of six rectangular pieces of ivory joined together 
with copper nails, reinforced with decorated strips of gilded 
copper, and embellished with a copper lock. The box is 
lavishly decorated with thirty-one small scenes distributed 
in registers on the box's lid, front, back, and sides. 

Many of the scenes depicted are typical of romance 
imagery. On the lid, just above the handle, are three 
successive scenes that show the progression of love. In the 
first, a couple joins arms and gazes longingly at one another. 
In the second, the young woman holds an object, almost 
certainly a gift from her lover, whose backward glance 
indicates that the meeting is clandestine. In the third scene, 


Fig. 41 Box with Romance Scenes, about 1350, Northern France or Flanders. 
Ivory with copper mounts, H 10.4 cm (4 'A in.). Purchased with funds from 
the LibbeyEndowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1950.302. 

the man has dropped his hood, and caresses the body of 
his beloved. In the lower register the couple crowns one 
another. At the left, a real crown passes from one to the 
other, while in the next scene the woman crowns her 
kneeling lover with a chaplet, a leafy garland symbolizing 
eternal desire. 

While focusing on romance and fantasy, the box's imagery 
mirrors important aspects of the world of the warrior 
aristocracy. A case in point is the frequent depiction of 
secular architecture with a military connotation. On the 
front of the box, in the scene at the upper right, a figure 
armed with a dagger approaches a castle gate. With the 
exception of relative scale, the artist's representation 
conveys essential features of castles with considerable 
accuracy. Two towers protect the opening of the gate, a 

scheme typical of castles of the noos and later. The towers 
are round, a development that made them less vulnerable 
to attack by catapults than the square towers of earlier 
centuries. Similar forms are seen in St. George and the 
Dragon (fig. 39); its "city" is actually a castle, whose round 
towers are clear examples of French secular architecture 
of the late Gothic era. In the ivory, the tops of the tower 
walls are lined with crenellations, the tooth-like 
arrangement that alternated protective walls for defenders 
with openings from which they could launch arrows or 
other deadly missiles. The gateway arch also shows the 
lower edge of a portcullis, a grid of wood or iron that could 
be lowered to seal a castle gate. Finally the castle gate is 
clearly composed of the carefully shaped blocks of stone 
typical of masonry in the Gothic era. 

-i i » 

Fig. 42.Aquamanile (vessel for washing the hands in the form of a lion), about 1400, 
Germany (Nuremberg). Brass, H 31.7 cm (12 'A in.). Purchased with funds from the 
Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1953.74. 



At the bottom of his social scheme, Bishop Adalbero placed 
"those who work," people who did manual labor for their 
living, particularly rural peasants. Throughout the Middle 
Ages, the vast majority of the population was composed of 
country folk, whose hard lives revolved around the cycles 
of agriculture. Given the elitism of the medieval world and 
its religious outlook, it is no accident that Adalbero ranked 
workers last. As the Bible notes, the necessity to till the soil 
was part of God's punishment of Adam and Eve (Genesis 
3:17), so medieval Christian belief contributed to the era's 
condescending view toward manual labor. 

peASANJTS While we know little of the art made by 
medieval peasants, they appear with frequency in works 
of art intended for the church or private individuals. Artists 
often depicted them, like knights, in scenes representing 
episodes from the distant past. Toledo's fourteenth-century 
embroidery devoted to the Virgin Mary presents an 
excellent example (fig. 17). It includes peasants in a 
representation of the Annunciation to Joachim, alegendary 
event associated with Mary's birth. Joachim, distressed that 
he and his wife Anne had been childless through many 
years of marriage, fled in despair into the countryside to 
visit his shepherds. There an angel appeared to him, telling 
him that his wife was pregnant with a daughter — Mary — 
who would one day give birth to Christ. To show the rural 
setting of this miraculous episode, the designer of the 
tapestry included a pasture, sheep, and two shepherds, both 
of whom wear the short tunics and hooded cloaks typical 
of medieval peasant attire. 

Another way in which peasants appeared in medieval art 
was in illustrative cycles called the Labors of the Months. 
Symbols of the passage of time, such imagery associated 
each of the twelve months with a form of agricultural 
activity appropriate to its time of year. The Labors often 
appear in the sculpted doorways of medieval churches, and 
even more frequently in the calendars of medieval 
manuscripts. Toledo's collection of medieval books includes 
a Book of Hours, written and decorated in France around 
1500, whose calendar includes a full sequence of the 
monthly activities. Particularly interesting is the 
fascinating depiction of autumn planting that embellishes 
the calendar page for October (fig. 44). In a miniature 
painting that shows the late medieval interest in pictorial 
space, peasants work in a field framed by distant castles 
and a church. Picturesque details, these architectural 
elements also symbolize the aristocrats and churchmen 
who shaped and dominated the lives of peasants. Reflecting 
the social realities of the medieval world, the picture is less 



One of the Cloister Gallery's most detailed depictions of a 
knight is part of a stained glass depiction of the Crucifixion 
fabricated in Flanders or Burgundy about 1490. The imagery 
highlights the words of a centurion, a Roman soldier 
mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke as a 
witness to the death of Christ. Awed by what he has seen, 
he says: Vere Dei Filius erat iste ("Truly he was the Son of 
God"), words recorded in Matthew 27:54. 

As in the representations of Roman soldiers on the St. -Pons 
arcade (fig. 38), the artist has rendered the centurion as a 
contemporary knight. However, the ringed mail of the 
thirteenth-century relief carving has given way to plate 
armor similar to that worn by St. George (fig. 39). Arms 
makers of the later Middle Ages devised this new form of 
protective attire to defend against thrusting weapons or 
arrows that could penetrate mail armor with ease. Better 
protected, the fifteenth-century knight wears metal plates 
that are cleverly hinged so as to allow free movement of 
the body. Obvious features include shoulder plates called 

pauldrons, articulated metal 
gloves called gauntlets, and a 
padded cloth tunic — called a 
jupon (Jooh-POHNJ — that covers 
the plates protecting the torso. 
The centurion's headgear 
appears to be a stylized version 
of a helmet with visor, which was 
typical of late medieval head 
protection. A slightly earlier form 
of armor — mostly of plate, but 
with some mail — protected the 
cavalry soldiers of England and 
France at the famous Battle of 
Agincourt in 1415. 

Fig. 43. Knight, detail of Crucifixion, 15 th 
century, Flanders or Burgundy. Stained glass, 
H (overall) 114.1 cm (45 in.); (knight) 58 cm 
(22 Vs in.). Gift of George H. Ketcham, 1926.6. 

accurate in some of its details. The peasant who is 
scattering seed, for example, walks in front of the plowman, 
rather than behind him. The illogic of this sequence is 
compounded by the fact that sowing followed another 
process — harrowing — that prepared the plowed earth for 
seed. Thus, like many representations of labor in medieval 
art, the October image does not give us a grittily realistic 
image of peasant life but an idyllic fantasy. On the other 
hand, many of the painting's details are quite reliable. The 
clothing depicted is plausible, and the patterns in the field, 
called ridge and furrow, accurately reflect those produced 

by repeated plowing. The plow itself is a heavy, wheeled 
device drawn by a team of horses, a combination used only 
in the later Middle Ages. 

BURQl^GRS While many workers spent their lives in 
the fields, many also left for the towns. They formed a 
fourth important group of medieval people, not specifically 
mentioned by Adalbero. These were the burghers, middle 
class people who lived in towns and made their livings 
through craft, commerce, or some other form of non- 
agricultural labor. Almost nonexistent in northern Europe 


i A Antnioa e. 

Fig. 44. October, calendar illustration of peasants plowing and sowing, from 
Book of Hours of the Virgin, about 1500, France. Vellum, H 13.2 cm (5 V, 6 in.). 
Museum Purchase, 1955.28. 

Fig 44. November, calendar illustration of peasants feeding pigs with acorns, 
from Book of Hours of the Virgin, about 1500. Vellum, H 13.2 cm (5 J /, 6 in.). 
Museum Purchase, 1955.28. 


during the early Middle Ages, they began their rise to 
significance at precisely the time when Adalbero was 
writing, the early eleventh century. Like peasants, burghers 
stood outside the medieval elite. In the later Middle Ages, 
however, many of them acquired wealth, power, and 
influence. Like the landed nobility, they commissioned 
works of art with secular themes as well as religious works 
intended for private devotion. 

In the Gothic era, an increased focus on Christ's humanity 
and Mary's maternal compassion was accompanied by an 
expanded interest in personal devotion. Many devout lay 
people — whether nobles or burghers — adapted routines of 
daily prayer and contemplation more generally associated 
with the lives of monks, nuns, or churchmen. This 
phenomenon motivated the production of many works of 
art meant to embellish personal devotion. Such 
works, including Toledo's Polyptych (fig. 16) and Books 
of Hours (figs. 44, 45, and 49), survive in great numbers, 
strong evidence of the growing popularity of personal 
worship. While prayer books provided texts for worship, 
works like the ivory shrine served as objects of prayer 
and contemplation. In the towns, many burghers 
worshipped privately in their homes, dedicating 
small spaces — sometimes including a private altar — 
to devotional activities. 

ARTISTS Whatever their status, medieval people 

who commissioned works of art relied upon the skills and 
talents of artists, who in the later Middle Ages were usually 
burghers, who had a lower status than artists today. This 
was so because the work of artists, no matter how skilled, 
depended upon manual labor. Indeed, the same Latin 
word — artifices — was used to designate both craftsmen 
and artists. In both cases the practitioner — the artist or 
crafstman — was thought of as far less important than the 
person who commissioned a work of art. 

We will never know the names of many medieval artists 
and even less in the way of biographical details about them. 
Our current lack of knowledge about artists' identities 
stems from several fundamental causes: medieval artists 
signed their works with less frequency than today; 
medieval people did not keep as extended records as do 
we; many records that were made have not survived; 
and people simply were not as interested in artists as 
we are today. 

Sources that do survive — signatures or inscriptions, letters, 
artists' treatises, or contracts, for example — provide a great 
deal of information about a few artists in particular, and 
even more about how artists worked in general. They reveal, 
for instance, that the common belief that medieval artists 
were anonymous monks is simply not true. This belief is 
founded upon the scarcity of artistic signatures, the large 
quantity of art produced in early medieval monasteries, and 
the fact that religious art was created to honor God. The 
situation in early monastic settings is complicated by 
evidence that some artists working for monasteries were 
secular professionals. What is true in part for early medieval 
artists is true in general for later ones. Romanesque and 
Gothic artists were both male and female, secular and 
religious. Some amateur artists were members of the 
nobility or the religious elite, and some worked at the arts 
on a part-time basis. Most, however, were full-time 
professionals participating in the commercial life of towns. 
They often were members of guilds, professional 
organizations in towns that collectively regulated the 
training of apprentices, prices, the use of materials, the 
quality of the finished product, and many other matters. 
Within their own ranks, artists varied in professional 
stature according to their specialization and individual 
accomplishments: goldsmiths had a very high status, as did 
glass painters, fresco painters, and architects. 


Fig. 46. Jug. about 1300, England (London?). Earthenware with lead glaze, H 30 cm 
(11 7 / 8 in.). Purchased with funds from the Florence Scott Libbey Bequest in Memory 
of her Father, Maurice A. Scott, 1968.74. A product of a medieval craftsman. 

As a generality, it is clear that the status of the artist rose 
considerably in the Gothic era; this was particularly true 
for artists in Italy and architects in France. During the 
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in France, names and 
images of many architects have been preserved in funerary 
monuments and inscriptions, and a few of the architects 
were venerated for their design work and the coordinating 
of others' manual work. In spite of the artist's newfound 
status in the Late Middle Ages, medieval people apparently 
had little interest in biographical accounts of artists, a genre 
that became important only in the Renaissance. 

While we know little of the lives of medieval artists, we 
know a great deal about their working methods. Much can 
be learned from close examination of the works themselves, 
supplemented by reading surviving texts from the Middle 
Ages that describe artistic processes. The most famous of 
these is On Divers Arts, written in Latin by one "Theophilus," 
pseudonym of a French master craftsman who lived during 
the twelfth century. 

GeCD CARVIK1Q A look at three works in the 

Museum's collection shows the extraordinary skill of 
medieval artists, as well as their labor-intensive techniques. 
The earliest, an engraved rock crystal, is diminutive in scale 
but astounding in its detail (fig. 47). Probably made in Metz 
during the early ninth century, it depicts a cross surrounded 
by four winged figures: eagle, ox, lion, and man. These are 
the symbols of the Four Evangelists — Matthew (the man), 
Mark (the lion), Luke (the ox), and John (the eagle) — authors 
of the four Gospels, the opening books of the New 
Testament. Easily missed by visitors, the crystal is slightly 
more than two inches in height, with an elliptical shape, a 
flat back engraved with the cross and figures, and a lens- 
like outer surface that curves forward nearly an inch. 
Completely transparent and highly polished, at first sight 
it appears to be made of glass but is in fact a piece of rock 
crystal, a naturally occurring form of quartz. 

Toledo's engraved rock crystal gem is one of but twenty to 
survive from the Middle Ages, all of which originated in 
the Frankish kingdom under the dynasty of kings known 
as the Carolingians (751-987). The production of such an 
object required a patron with the means to pay for a large 
and flawless piece of rock crystal — a rare find — as well as 
the craftsman's skill and time-intensive labor to shape, 
polish and engrave it. The craftsman's first job was to cut a 
crystal to the desired size and shape. This could be partly 
accomplished by securing the piece to a board with pitch 
and cutting it with an iron saw. We understand the process 


thanks to the careful observations of Theophilus, 
who wrote the following about the cutting of crystals: 

[Use] an iron saw and throw on sharp sand mixed with water. 
Have two men stand there to draw the saw and to throw on sand 
mixed with water unceasingly. This should be continued until the 
crystal is cut.... 12 

Sand was the true abrasive, of course, as iron cannot touch 
the much harder quartz. Once cut to its rough shape, the 
rock crystal was given its final form and polish. Theophilus 
advises the craftsman how to shape rock crystal: 

...rub it with both hands on a piece of hard sandstone, adding 
water, until it takes the shape you want to give it. 13 

Polishing was accomplished through rubbing the stone on 
a piece of lead embedded with emery, another mineral 
of great hardness and durability. 

After he had achieved complete transparency and a high 
degree of reflectivity, the artist engraved the flat back of 
the rock crystal. As neither metal nor steel will scratch 
quartz, the artist drew the outlines of his design with a steel 
scriber in whose indented point was fixed a small 
gemstone. The engraved design was then carved with a 
bow-driven drill, a traditional tool in the handicrafts of the 
ancient and medieval worlds. Using a rounded metal bit 
embedded with emery, or some other form of hard abrasive, 
the artist cut out the areas between the outlines made 
with the scriber. 

When originally made, Toledo's engraved crystal probably 
embellished the center of a cross, an altar, a reliquary or 
the cover of a Gospel Book. Whatever its original context, 
its preciousness in the medieval world is reflected in the 
fact that it was re-used on the reliquary base in the 
thirteenth century. 

Fig. 47. Gem with Cross and Symbols of the Four Evangelists, mounted on the base of 
a reliquary. Gem: Metz (France), about 800-850; reliquary: Germany (Trier), early 13 th 
century. H (gem) 5.5 cm (2 V s in.). Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, 
Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1950.287 

eWACDeLlNQ Another craft that is well 

represented in the Cloister Gallery is enameled metalwork. 
In making a work such as the Museum's Book Cover (fig. 6) 


>,<-> t >■> I.H 

Fig 48. Detail of Chasse with Crucifixion, fig. 29. 

or the Chasse with Crucifixion (figs. 29 and 48), the artist 
employed a wide range of labor-intensive techniques. First, 
he drew the basic composition and then transferred the 
design to a thin copper plate. The artist then cut shallow 
troughs in those portions of the plate reserved for enamel, 
a technique known as champleve (pronounced sham-pleh- 
VAY). Glass powder (frit) was prepared from pieces of glass 
using a technique described by Theophilus: 

Now take all the pieces of tested glass and put them one at a time in 
the fire and when each one becomes red-hot throw it into a copper 
pot containing water and it will immediately burst into tiny 
fragments. Quickly crush these fragments with a pestle until they 
are fine.... Prepare each color in this way.' 4 

Once the glass powder was finely ground, the artist carefully 
placed portions of appropriate colors into the cells excavated 
in the copper plate, and then fired the work. The glass 
particles melted, adhered to the copper plate, and formed 
richly colored sections of the composition. As the glass 

shrank as it fused, the process had to be repeated until the 
level of the enamels was close to that of the copper plate. 

With firing completed, the artist or an assistant polished 
the enamel surfaces, achieving the lustrous surface so often 
encountered in medieval art. The artist would also incise 
the interior details of the figures — the anatomical details 
in Christ's torso and loincloth, for example. The artist used 
a sheet of copper to form the heads, a technique called 
repousse (pronounced ray-poo-SAY). He hammered them 
out from the rear, polished and engraved them, and 
attached them to the copper plate. Finally, the copper plate 
was gilded and the work was complete. 

(DAklKJQ Books Clearly, the production of a 
medieval work of art required diligence, skill, technical 
knowledge, and a fine feeling for materials. This was 
especially true of the creation of an illustrated manuscript, 
which depended upon the talents of a variety of craftsmen 
and required an array of resources (fig. 49). Book production 
was generally a secular, commercial activity in the later 
Middle Ages, and specialized merchants supplied writing 
materials to shops that focused on the production of books. 
A manuscript's leaves, for example, came from the skins of 
animals. Through soaking, scraping, and finishing, workers 
processed them into sheets of parchment (from sheep) or 
vellum (from calves). Both had writing surfaces of superior 
quality and durability. 

Within a workshop, scribes used a variety of implements 
to write the text on individual sheets laboriously ruled for 
columns and lines. They would also reserve spaces for 
decorated initials (see fig. 32), ornament, or illustrations. 
Using a variety of inks and paints, some acquired through 
wide-reaching trade networks, painters completed the 
program of artistic decoration, which sometimes included 
the use of gold. Finally, craftsmen sewed the finished leaves 
together, forming a binding using wooden boards for front 
and back covers. The boards were usually covered with 


Fig. 49. Left Minature painting of Christ carrying the Cross, with his mother Mary and St- Simeon, and right: 
initial "P" with St. Mary Magdalene adoring the Cross, from a Book of Hours, 1513-21, Northern Italy. Vellum. 
Museum Purchase, 1957.23. This manuscript was written for Pope Leo X, a member of the Medici family of 
Florence and a patron of art, literature, and science. 

leather, but sumptuous volumes might receive more 
elaborate embellishment, like the Book Cover (fig. 6). 

The intensity of the work involved in book production is 
indicated by the following inscription, written on the last 
leaf of a book by a twelfth-century scribe: 

If you do not know how to write you will consider it no hardship, 
but if you want a detailed account of it let me tell you that the work 
is heavy; it makes the eyes misty, bows the back, crushes the ribs 
and belly brings pain to the kidneys, and makes the body ache all 
over. Therefore, oh reader, turn the pages gently and keep your 

fingers away from the letters, for as the hailstorm ruins the harvest 
of the land so does the unserviceable reader destroy the book and 
the writing. As the sailor welcomes the final harbor, so does the scribe 
the final line.' 5 

As we approach our final line, we will conclude by 
examining another work made by medieval craftsmen. 
Devoted to the extraordinary cult of a twelfth-century saint, 
it summarizes almost every theme we have discussed in 
the course of this short book. 


Fig. 50. Chasse with Murder of St. Thomas Becket, early 13"> century. France (Limoges?). 
Champleve enamel and gilding on copper, H 12.4 cm (4 V 8 in.) Purchased with funds 
from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1956.74. 




xl^e aQARTYRt>ocD of Beck ex 

As we have seen, medieval art 

involved many people in many 

ways. Patrons initiated its creation, 

merchants provided its raw 

materials, artists labored to give it 

form, and audiences participated in 

its powerful messages. In addition, 

its subject matter often depicted a 

wide variety of human situations. 

An outstanding example is an 

enameled reliquary chasse — worn 

through many years of use — that is 

one of the Cloister Gallery's most 

interesting objects (fig. 48). It 

commemorates one of the most notorious events of the 

Middle Ages and attests to the vivid relationship of 

medieval art and life. 

Empty today the chasse once contained a relic of one of 
the most revered of medieval saints, Thomas Becket, who 
was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on December 29, 
1170. His fascinating story has been the subject of modern 
books, plays, and even a film, but his fame was far greater 
in the Middle Ages. Born the son of a London burgher, 
Becket became the close friend, political ally, and chief 
administrator of the English King Henry II. Wanting a friend 
and ally in the church, in 1162 Henry named Becket 
Archbishop of Canterbury, the most important 
ecclesiastical post in England. Trouble developed between 
the two when Thomas, rather than acquiescing in policies 
of Henry that were contrary to the interests of the clergy, 

vehemently defended the rights of 
the Church over those of the royal 
government. So heated was the 
conflict that Becket, charged by the 
king with high crimes, fled England 
for a six-year, self-imposed exile in 
France. Following an apparent 
reconciliation with Henry, Becket 
returned to England in 1170, but 
their quarrel was quickly renewed. 
At a gathering of his nobles, the 
king, in a fit of exasperated rage, 
cried out, "What miserable drones 
and traitors have I nourished and 
promoted in my household, who let their lord be treated 
with such shameful contempt by a low-born clerk!" 16 

Driven by Henry's rebuke, four noblemen hastened to 
Canterbury, intent on arresting the archbishop. After a 
heated exchange with Becket in his palace, they briefly 
withdrew, gathered their weapons, and pursued him into 
the church. Confronting Becket near an altar, they attempted 
to seize him. When he resisted, they attacked him with their 
swords, one blow cutting off the top of his head. Leaving his 
bleeding, lifeless body on the floor of the cathedral, the 
noblemen withdrew, one saying "Let's be off, knights, this 
fellow won't get up again."' 7 Becket 's colleagues carried his 
body to the sanctuary of the church, while others gathered 
his freshly spilled blood. Seen by many as a holy martyr, 
Becket soon had miracles associated with his remains, 
leading to his canonization as a saint in 1173. 


As we have seen, medieval belief put a premium on the 
relics of saints, so it is not surprising that churchmen 
worked zealously to commemorate Becket's. The clergy at 
Canterbury built a great shrine over his tomb — to be visited 
by thousands of pilgrims like those featured in Chaucer's 
Canterbury Tales — while churchmen in more distant places 
obtained portions of the blood he had shed on the cathedral 
floor. Once acquired, a relic needed a suitable container for 
its display on or near an altar. Many churchmen purchased 
them from the skilled metalworkers of Limoges, where 
craftsmen fabricated more than a hundred of the type now 
on display in Toledo. 

Unfortunately, we will never know the identity of the 
person who commissioned or made Toledo's reliquary but 
the subject matter provides a clear idea about how 
medieval people felt about Becket's martyrdom. Decorated 
in enamel, the chasse depicts it in an expressive 
Romanesque style that conveys the outrage of his murder. 

A single knight brings his sword down upon Thomas's head, 
an accurate and terrifying detail. Dressed in the vestments 
of a bishop and glorified with a halo of sanctity, Thomas 
receives the blow without defending himself. This detail 
accords with the account of Edward Grim, an eyewitness 
to the murder: "he [would not] take any forethought or 
employ any strategem whereby he might escape." 18 In the 
image, Thomas stands before an altar that supports a 
Eucharistic chalice. Although he was not engaged in 
worship when killed, the altar establishes the shocking 
detail that violence had reached into the very sanctuary of 
the church. More important, the chalice shows that the 
martyr's blood, like that of Christ, is sacred. We can imagine 
the power such a relic had for a medieval worshipper, and 
how effectively the artist's skill helped to convey it. Here is 
the essence of medieval art. 




For histories of medieval art and architecture based upon style 
and chronology, see Janetta Rebold Benton, Art of the Middle Ages 
(New York: Thames & Hudson, 2002), or James Snyder, Medieval 
Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture,\.th Century (New York: 
Harry N. Abrams, 1989). Important historic documents relating to 
medieval art are collected in two volumes edited by H. W. Janson, 
Sources and Documents in the History of Art (Englewood Cliffs: 
Prentice-Hall, 1971): Caecilia Davis-Weyer, Early Medieval Art, 300- 
1150, and Teresa G. Frisch, Gothic Art, 1140-C.1450. 

For thematic approaches to medieval art, see Lawrence Nees, Early 
Medieval Art (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), and 
Veronica Sekules, Medieval Art (New York: Oxford University Press, 
2001). Roger Stalley, Early Medieval Architecture (New York: Oxford 
University Press, 1999), and Nicola Coldstream, Medieval 
Architecture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002) are thematic 
treatments of architecture. A work that relates the imagery of the 
Middle Ages to essential themes in medieval culture and society 
is Robert Bartlett, Medieval Panorama (Los Angeles: The J. Paul 
Getty Museum, 2001). Eras essential to Toledo's medieval 
collections are thematically introduced in Andreas Petzold, 
Romanesque Art (New York: Prentice Hall/Abrams, 1995), and 
Michael Camille, Gothic Art: Glorious Visions (New York: Prentice 
Hall/Abrams, 1996). 

For the art of cultures that had a strong relationship to western 
Europe in the Middle Ages, see Thomas F. Matthews, Byzantium: 
From Antiquity to the Renaissance (New York: Prentice Hall/ 
Abrams, 1998); Helen C. Evans and William D. Wixom, eds., The 
Glory of Byzantium; Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, 
A.D. 843-1261 (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1997); and Robert Irwin, 
Islamic Art in Context (New York: Prentice Hall/Abrams, 1997). 

cneCnevAl. people ano AspecTS op cneoievAL Lipe 

For medieval people and their essential relationships to society, 
see Jacques Le Goff, ed., The Medieval World, trans. Lydia G. 
Cochrane (London: Collins and Brown, 1990); Georges Duby The 
Three Orders; Feudal Society Imagined, trans. Arthur Goldhammer 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); and Hans-Werner 
Goetz, life in the Middle Ages from the Seventh to the Thirteenth 
Century, trans. Albert Wimmer (Notre Dame, Indiana: University 
of Notre Dame Press, 1993). A thematic analysis of medieval society 
in one time and place is Robert Bartlett, England under the Norman 
and Angevin Kings 1075-1225 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000). 
Medieval attire is introduced in Francoise Piponnier and Perrine 
Mane, Dress in the Middle Ages, trans. Caroline Beamish (New 
Haven: Yale University Press, 1997). 

Monks, nuns, and monastic life are the subject of C. H. Lawrence, 
Medieval Monasticism, 3rd edn. (New York: Longman, 2002). 
Constance Bouchard, Strong of Body, Brave and Noble (Ithaca: 
Cornell University Press, 1998), is an introductory study of the 
medieval nobility. For medieval knights, warfare, and armor, see J. 
F. Verbruggen, The Art of Warfare in Western Europe during the 
Middle Ages, trans. Sumner Willard and Mrs. R. W. Southern 
(Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1997). Maurice Keen, Chivalry (New 
Haven: Yale University Press, 1984) summarizes important aspects 
of the culture of the nobility, while Michael Camille, The Medieval 
Art of Love; Objects and Subjects of Desire (New York: Harry N. 
Abrams, 1998), provides a sumptuous overview of medieval 
romance in the visual arts. 

For an excellent overview of Christian beliefs and practices in the 
later Middle Ages, see R. N. Swanson, Religion and Devotion in 
Europe, c. 1215-c. 1515 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 
1995). For the importance of medieval relics, see Patrick J. Geary, 
Furta Sacra; Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 1978). See Frank Barlow, Thomas Becket 
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986) for Becket's 
tumultuous relationship with Henry II, and for the "afterlife" of 
Becket's relics, see John Butler, The Quest for Becket's Bones (New 
Haven: Yale University Press, 1995). 


For the medieval artist, see E. Castelnuovo, "The Artist," in Jacques 
Le Goff, ed., The Medieval World, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (London: 
Collins and Brown, 1990) 211-241; Andrew Martindale, The Rise of 
the Artist in the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance (New York: 
McGraw-Hill, 1972); J. Alexander, Medieval Illuminators and Their 
Methods of Work (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992); and 
Virginia Wylie Egbert, The Mediaeval Artist at Work (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 1967). An important treatise by a 
medieval artist is Theophilus, On Divers Arts, trans. John G. 
Hawthorne and Cyril Stanley Smith (New York: Dover, 1979). 

For introductions to various crafts important to the art of the 
Cloister Gallery, see introductory volumes in the series Medieval 
Craftsmen (Toronto: University of Toronto Press): Paul Binski, 
Painters (1991); Saran Browne, Glass-Painters (1991); John Cherry, 
Goldsmiths (1992); Nicola Coldstream, Masons and Sculptors (1991); 
Christopher De Hamel, Scribes and Illuminators (1992); and Kay 
Staniland, Embroiderers (1991). A fascinating overview of medieval 
books is provided in Christopher De Hamel, A History of 
Illuminated Manuscripts, 2nd edn. (London: Phaidon Press, 1994). 

A marvelous exhibition catalogue published by the Metropolitan 
Museum of Art provides the context for much of the metalwork 
in the Cloister Gallery: Enamels of Limoges 1100-1350 (New York: 
Harry N. Abrams, 1996). An equally useful introduction to Gothic 
ivories — including several of Toledo's — is an exhibition by the 
Detroit Institute of Arts, Images in Ivory: Precious Objects of the 
Gothic Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997). 


West Arcade, in the style of St.-Michel-de-Cuxa (from Espira d'Agly? 





















a pi pi p 
a B a e 




































East Arcade, modern (wood) 


scuLpxeD capitals 
im rl^e cLoisxeR qaLLgry 

with Museum accession numbers, subject matter, and dates 
(Capital numbers begin at lower left of diagram and run clockwise) 

Arcade from St-Pons-de-Thomieres (south side of gallery) 

The Martyrdom of St. Pons 

The Trial of St. Pons and St. Pons Thrown to the Bears 

Early Life of St. Pons: Baptism and Refusal to Worship Idols 

Christ at Gethsemane, Betrayal of Christ 

The Last Judgment and the Condemned Led to Hell 











about 1150 
about 1150 
about 1220 
about 1220 
about 1220 

Arcade in the style of St.-Michel-de-Cuxa (Espira dAgly?) (west side of gallery) 

Capital with foliage, volutes, and animal masks about 1150 

Capital with paired doves and volutes about 1150 

Capital with winged lions about 1150 

Capital with eagles and volutes about 1150 

Capital with foliage and volutes about 1150 











Arcade from N6tre-Dame-de-Pontaut (north side of gallery) 

with foliage, animal heads, and Gothic ornament 

with animals and scenes of ecclesiatical life 

with scenes of ecclesiastical life 

with the Romance of Barlaam and Josephat 

with intertwining hybrid monsters 

with churchmen and monks 

with intertwining hybrid monsters 

with foliage 

with intertwining hybrid monsters (not installed) 



























about 1400 
about 1400 
about 1400 
about 1400 
about 1400 
about 1400 
about 1400 
about 1400 
about 1400 

The wood columns of the modern arcade on the east side of Cloister Gallery are based upon fifteenth-century 
supports at the Hotel Dieu (hospital) at Beaune, as drawn by the nineteenth-century French architect Viollet-le-Duc. 



1 Caecilia Davis-Weyer, Early Medieval Art 300-1150 
(Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971) 124. 

2 Christopher Daniel, Death and Burial in Medieval England, 
1066-1500 (New York: Routledge, 1997) 2. 

3 Rosaline and Christopher Brooke, Popular Religion in the 
Middle Ages; Western Europe 1000-1300 (London: Thames 
& Hudson, 1984) 146. 

4 Peter Brown, The Cult of Saints-. Its Rise and Function in 
Latin Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 
1981) 69. 

5 Brown, Cult of Saints (above note 4) 4. 

6 Adalbero of Laon, Carmen, lines 295-296; quoted in 
Georges Duby, The Three Orders: Feudal Society Imagined, 
trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Chicago: University of Chicago 
Press, 1980) 13. 

7 Davis-Weyer, Early Medieval Art (above note 1) 19. 

8 Roger Hinks, Carolingian Art: A Study of Early Medieval 
Painting and Sculpture in Western Europe (Ann Arbor: 
University of Michigan Press, 1971) 97. 

9 All selections are from The Rule of Saint Benedict, trans. 
Francis Aidan Cardinal Gasquet (London: Chatto and 
Windus, 1925). 

10 Roger of Hoveden, Chronica, quoted in J. F. Verbruggen, 
The Art of Warfare in Western Europe during the Middle 
Ages, trans. Sumner Willard and Mrs. R. W. Southern 
(Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1997) 28. 

11 The Golden Legend oflacobus de Voragine, trans. Granger 
Ryan and Helmut Ripperger (New York: Arno Press, 1969) 235. 

12 Theophilus, On Divers Arts, trans. John G. Hawthorne and 
Cyril Stanley Smith (New York: Dover, 1979) 191. 

13 Theophilus, On Divers Arts, 189. 

14 Theophilus, On Divers Arts, 126-127. 

15 Albertine Gaur, A History of Calligraphy (New York: Cross 
River Press, 1994) 72. 

16 Edward Grim, quoted in Frank Barlow, Thomas Becket 
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986) 235. 

17 Edward Grim, quoted in Barlow, Thomas Becket, 247. 

18 Edward Grim, "Martyrdom," in The Becket Controversy, ed. 
Thomas M. Jones (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1970) 54.